VW’s Spanish subsidiary is reorganizing to mark the 30th anniversary of the Seat factory in Martorell near Barcelona. Electric cars are trumps, but a modern mobility provider is also emerging.
For several years, the management of the VW Group has been happy about the good sales figures from Spain. The Martorell plant, located near Barcelona, has been producing small and compact cars there since 1993, which fit well into the VW Group’s portfolio.
Since then, 12 million cars have been produced in 30 years, a total of models from 45 different series. Cars from other brands such as VW and Audi also roll off the assembly line at Martorell.
For the past three years, the new brand has kept Viti managers and staff busy. The smaller Seat Cupra model was created to make VW’s Spanish subsidiary more attractive and more powerful. The name is already familiar to Seat connoisseurs as a sport attribute for certain models. But Cupra should be independent and give Kiti a new impetus.
Success came immediately. In Europe and especially Switzerland, the Cupra was struck by its “tribal” logo and the combination of dark car colors and bronze accents. From then on, at least 40 percent of all Seat sales in Switzerland were accounted for by Cupra.
Is the Seat dying in the shadow of the Cupra?
So the question arises whether Seti’s traditional branding will soon become obsolete. But Kai Vogler, Seat’s board member for sales and marketing, doesn’t seem worried. “Both products complement each other perfectly because they appeal to different target groups.” Seat’s customer is young, impressionable and the typical entry-level customer. “There are still customers like that today who haven’t switched to Cupra.”
To prove that Seat is still playing the first game, Vogler talks about an attractive and still fresh product portfolio. “We have record books on Seat. Demand for Seat cars is still high.”
The Cupra was designed for other customers, explains Vogler. For those who “do not want to continue in the traditions and heritage of their ancestors, but want something completely new”. With the Cupra, Seat has filled a niche between the mass segment and premium cars. “It’s working better than we expected.”
But for now Cupra is ahead in advertising. “It’s the power of the Cupra that currently shines the Seat brand,” explains Vogler unconvincingly. After all, Cupra was soon the fastest growing brand in Europe. According to Vogler, these are primarily not people moving from Kiti, but new customers. “About 75 percent of Cupra buyers are new.”
The fact that the flagship brand still doesn’t have an electric car suggests that Seat should be lagging behind when it comes to introducing the Cupra. Cupra, on the other hand, can already offer two electric cars and the Born and recently launched compact SUV Tavascan. With the Cupra Terramar, the first plug-in hybrid from Seat/Cupra is planned for 2024 – and thus also the last Cupra with a combustion engine.
Strategic change for a mobility service provider
There are currently no electrification plans for the flagship brand. As Sales Director Kai Vogler explains, Seat is increasingly becoming a service brand. Mobility as a service is the key word. With the Seat Mó offer, the Spanish manufacturer has already managed to rent a variety of electric scooters of all sizes. “The chair can be one of the biggest providers of mobility services,” hopes Vogler.
But the dealer has another ace up his sleeve with Kiti. The VW Group is currently investing 3 billion euros in the electrification of the Spanish plant in Martorell. “We’re putting together a fleet of small battery electric cars, and that’s for the entire VW Group worldwide,” says Vogler.
The first car in this small BEV segment is the Cupra Urban Rebel. The group wants to use it to democratize mobility, as Vogler explains. “He’s cheap, sporty and very emotional. I think he’s going to be a huge success.”
But that remains to be seen. Once the small urban rebels are launched, small electric cars from VW and Skoda are likely to follow. Then the competition between the brands of the Wolfsburg group starts again. Who will win? Experience says: Volkswagen.