Seat may take its sub-brand’s name under plans by owner VW to target more premium end of the market
14 October 2019

Seat is considering a major rebranding plan that would reposition the Spanish car maker further upmarket in the search for greater sales and profits. It is part of a broader strategy by parent company Volkswagen.

The plan was hinted at by Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess on the sidelines of last month’s Frankfurt motor show. The move could lead to Seat taking the name of its newly established Cupra sub-brand ahead of the development of a new line-up of models and a concerted push into new global markets, including North America, by the middle of the next decade.

The possible rebranding of Seat forms part of a wider plan for further differentiation between each of Volkswagen’s key volume car brands. Nothing is official yet, although Diess indicated Skoda is set to adopt a more budget-oriented role and Seat may be taken further upmarket in a future-proofing move for both brands.

Diess told Autocar the Spanish firm’s best chance of long-term survival is to be positioned above Volkswagen as a more emotional premium brand, in the vein of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Alfa Romeo. At the centre of concern for Seat is its high operating costs in relation to the current pricing level of key models like the Ibiza, Leon and Ateca. Diess hinted the cost basis of those cars is almost the same as their VW counterparts despite the price difference.

Although Diess praised the efforts of Seat boss Luca de Meo in boosting sales to more than 500,000 in 2018, he pointed to disappointing performances in key European markets such as Italy and France as just one reason to rethink Seat’s future direction.

Our Verdict

Cupra Ateca 2019 road test review - hero front

The first model from Seat's standalone performance brand is an unconventional launchpad with some pace and precision, but lacks the hallmarks of a great driver’s car

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Chairman of both Seat and Cupra, de Meo has already gone on the record about the issue of the Seat brand. Speaking at the launch of the Cupra division early last year, he said: “Seat has put a focus on growing and gaining credibility, but in some markets there is still some rejection of the Seat brand from people who are image sensitive.

“This we can fix, but we need time. Cupra is starting from scratch with something new. We start from a green field, and maybe with that we can attract customers who in other cases might not buy a Seat. Selling those kinds of cars for us is much more profitable. This allows us to increase the conquest of the brand.”

Next year, Cupra will move from its small base shared with the firm’s motorsport division to a new 2400-square metre HQ, having already increased its staffing levels by 50%. Cupra has sold more than 18,000 cars this year, an improvement of nearly 80% on 2018, despite having only two models – the Ateca and Leon – on sale so far.

Will this car be Cupra's first EV?

The Tavascan is a realistic preview of Cupra’s first EV, according to design boss Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos. “I made a deal with Luca [de Meo, chairman] that this car would be very close to a production version,” Mesonero-Romanos said, although he admitted that the project has yet to get the official green light.

Mentioning the Tesla Model 3 as a potential rival, Mesonero-Romanos claimed that brand’s interiors are “too simple, too cold” and that “if everybody adopted the same cabin design, we would have one characterless interior”. He said future Cupra cabins will have “a lot of nice shapes that humanise the vehicle… Simple doesn’t have to be crude.”

READ MORE

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Cupra Tavascan: emotive EV concept shown at Frankfurt

Cupra Leon ditches Seat badge and goes hybrid for 2020

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Comments
20

14 October 2019

VW realises this is an issue every 10 years or so. This isn't the first time that VW has decided that Seat should be an Alfa Romeo competitor and Skoda a budget brand. Of course out in the real world the plan falls apart because Skoda build cars that despite the best efforts of VW seem to out perform their VW rivals and because Seat seem to concentrate on hatchbacks (the type of car Alfa fails to sell) and their one shot at a sports saloon was a car that wasn't competitive when Audi built it.

If VW is going to push Seat, branding it as a Cupra isn't the answer. The answer is to link the company with Audi and to sell Seat as Audis with interesting design at a lower price point or to close it.

14 October 2019

Success as a premium brand is hard won over decades of building high quality products, not the result of conjuring up a name that sounds premium. Just ask DS, or Xedos.

Perhaps it would be better for SEAT, or Cupra (or whatever name they choose) to build more interesting, more cost-effective products at the lower end of the market and build on what they already have?   

14 October 2019
SamVimes1972 wrote:

VW realises this is an issue every 10 years or so. This isn't the first time that VW has decided that Seat should be an Alfa Romeo competitor and Skoda a budget brand. Of course out in the real world the plan falls apart because Skoda build cars that despite the best efforts of VW seem to out perform their VW rivals and because Seat seem to concentrate on hatchbacks (the type of car Alfa fails to sell) and their one shot at a sports saloon was a car that wasn't competitive when Audi built it.

If VW is going to push Seat, branding it as a Cupra isn't the answer. The answer is to link the company with Audi and to sell Seat as Audis with interesting design at a lower price point or to close it.

You sir have hit the nail on the head. If I want a VAG, I will get the Skoda. Best reliability of the brands and usually better value and larger boot space. If I want premium interiors then I can get an Audi. An interesting Audi, now you have my attention.

14 October 2019

I’m not sure why VW feel the need to turn Seat into Alfa, presumably because they want better profit margins. Problem is Alfa makes no money so it’s hardly the best template. 

If they really want an Alfa Romeo fighter then is t Alfa meant to be the answer to that? 

Perhaps VW should consider selling Seat off and / or buying JLR which would seem to fit much better with what they are inexplicably trying to do.

14 October 2019

I meant isn’t Audi meant to be the answer to Alfa?

14 October 2019

Whatever name VW chooses for SEAT, its products aren't going to be very different from what the VW group already offers. There are in the end only so many market niches.

14 October 2019

What I'm hearing is that this "group of companies doesn't make anything different from one brand to another" and currently they seem to be having difficulties fooling the public into believing that Seat are especially worth buying as opposed to the rest of their homogeneous crap.

 

MrJ

14 October 2019

Tweaking names and interiors avoids the main issue, which is to build desirable cars at the right price. Then people will buy.

14 October 2019

If VW want Seat to be distinctive, then they have to let them produce interesting and "braver" models.

With the SUVs for example, Seat's versions are perfectly competent, but have no distinct personality at all, they're basically Skodas with a firmer ride. Where is the Seat version of a Nissan Juke for example, something genuinely different from the other VAG products? With 4 mainstream brands, surely one has to be a bit leftfield?

14 October 2019

We all know that this just means they want to sell basically the same vehicles but at higher prices.

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