The Seat chairman said the Volkswagen Group’s loss-making Spanish brand is looking to use the new Leon family, as well as expansion in new markets, to turn around last year’s £131 million loss on sales of 321,000 cars.
Seat is suffering because 80 per cent of its sales take place in the depressed European market and, as Spain’s number one brand, it is also suffering significantly from the collapse in its home market. It does, however, have an impressively youthful buyer base, with customers an average ten years younger than Skoda buyers.
“I can’t predict when we will be back in the black, but I aim to make Seat into a solid company,” said Stackmann. He also revealed that Seat was doing well in expanding markets such as Turkey and that sales were up 26 per cent in Germany and 15 per cent in the UK in the first eight months of this year. Seat is also expanding in Mexico, and it has eight dealers in China as part of an exercise to launch the brand in the world’s largest new car market.
“The Leon will become a core Seat model and will eventually match Ibiza sales,” said Stackmann. “The five-door Leon FR is a perfect expression of Seat: dynamic without being too hard. Seat design will make the driver feel younger and more sporting, but we won’t go to extremes. We don’t want to look like some niche brand.”
Stackmann said sales of the new Leon were up 40 per cent this year and that the arrival of the Leon ST estate would help it to push into European fleet sales. “There will be two more years of innovation around the new Leon,” he said. “The next-generation Cupra will amaze you and be a strong contender.” Seat will be a ‘late follower’ in the market for plug-in hybrids, however, with Stackmann placing more faith on compressed natural gas for greener motoring.
Seat’s crossover is still at least two years away, but Stackmann revealed that Seat would continue to build the Mk5 Golf-based Altea and Altea XL MPVs. “The Altea XL is underestimated,” he said. “We should be making more of it.”