Currently reading: New role for Seat as rise of Cupra continues
Manufacturer moves into electric mobility and away from mainstream car making as Cupra's prominence increases

Seat's long-term future lies away from being a mainstream car maker and that role will instead be taken by Cupra, its chairman has confirmed.

When asked about the future of Seat at the Munich motor show today, Thomas Schäfer said: “The future of Seat is Cupra.”

Schäfer said that the existing Seat models will continue to be produced in their current lifecycles - several of which are planned to run through much of the 2020s - but the brand would ultimately have a new role in the future.

The Seat brand name won’t be retired; Schäfer said the Volkswagen Group “would find a different role for it”.

It's likely to pivot into other vehicles and mobility solutions, such as e-scooters, as it has started to do with the Seat Mó. Small cars remain an option too.

Schäfer said it was prohibitive to invest in both Seat and Cupra as mainstream brands, and the earning potential for Cupra was ultimately far greater.

To that end, Schafer said the Volkswagen Group would “invest strongly in Cupra; this will ramp up”.

1 Cupra formentor 2021 road test review hero front 2

Cupra has moved into making its own bespoke models, having started as a performance arm of Seat. The Cupra Formentor is being followed by the Cupra Tavascan; plus the firm has previewed a new entry-level hatchback with a concept called the Cupra Raval and a sports car with the Cupra DarkRebel.

The production version of the UrbanRebel – named the Raval – will go into production in 2025 at Seat’s Martorell factory in Spain, alongside its platform twins from other Volkswagen Group brands, including the Volkswagen ID 2.

Schäfer said such an investment in manufacturing at Martorell showed the Volkswagen Group’s commitment to Spain, something further seen by the German giant being an investor in a new €10 billion EV battery factory in Valencia.

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“There are no problems with the government,” he said on the decision to move away from Seat, adding that Spanish customers had also responded well to Cupra.

He also highlighted that, further afield, Cupra was the fastest growing brand in Europe.

Schäfer said the wheels had been set in motion for Cupra to take Seat's role long ago. He said it had always been a long-term brand, but Cupra's success had cemented the thinking that this was the right thing to do.

There had been debate about trying to reinvigorate Seat, he said, but the brand had a history of making losses and ultimately Cupra’s greater earning potential cemented the decision.

01 Cupra leon 245 hatchback rt 2022 lead 0

"I think it was the right decision in hindsight, but it's a gamble,” said Schäfer. “I’ve seen lots of new names come up and go, but this was a good decision. Cupra is bigger than Alfa Romeo and Polestar, so not just new brands but also old.”

It’s possible that the Seat name could be dropped completely from the Leon when that car is facelifted in 2024, leaving it solely as the Cupra Leon.

The Ibiza is unlikely to be replaced in its current form when it's phased out, while Cupra is also planning to launch an SUV based on the Audi Q3 in 2024.

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In effect, the more profitable and successful Seat models will be absorbed into Cupra, the new brand at the same time launching into higher segments with more strikingly designed cars.

In the longer term, Cupra is investigating a halo sports car based on the Cupra DarkRebel concept revealed at the Munich motor show.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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si73 5 September 2023
Seems daft really as this is what SEAT should have been from the start, shows how mismanaged it was that their cars were just seen as cheap VWs, at least Skoda had sensible design on their side and as such were more than just cheap VWs. SEAT started well with the Leon and I iza definitely being sportier than their VW and Skoda equivalents, but it quickly went down hill as they chased mainstream numbers.
I guess the other issue is sporty premium that Cupra is now aiming at is the place where Audi sits. So maybe stick with just sporty.
Mikey C 4 September 2023

Makes sense to me, as Seat as a brand clashed too much with Skoda for the "sensible but slightly cheaper than VW" market, and never managed to create a "sporty" niche.

streaky 4 September 2023

I agree - Seat was supposed to be the sporty Alfa Romeo equivalent but never quite succeeded.  Basically Seat has just rebranded to Cupra with a name change that has already proved to be more appealing.  I do like the designs that have come from Seat/Cupra recently.

MrJ 4 September 2023

We've had a couple of Seat Leons, both OK cars.

So from our perspective, an odd choice to drop the brand.

It'll be interesting to see if Cupra manages to sell as many as Seat in years to come.