It will not disappear, but all the strength is taken by Cupra and the production of electric cars where the brand will not play a relevant role.
After 71 years of history, it will continue to exist as a company, although it must transform itself and bet on new markets and types of business.
No known product plans for the next five years. Thus it is very difficult to survive in the automotive sector being a generalist brand. This is the case you are in Seat , the Spanish brand that in 2020 turned 70 years old. It is true that you have to reinvent itself and that, perhaps, now is the time. After a time of abundance in which, under the direction of Luca Menzies the company registered a record year after year, the stoppage caused by the pandemic and the subsequent microchip crisis has put Seat In front of a uncertain scenario. Fall in sales and production stoppages that have led to having to delay some planned deliveries.
The future of the brand is complicated, not so the company that has the main guarantee in Martorell. A week ago they inaugurated the first battery laboratory of Volkswagen group in Europe outside of Germany, and the plant is emerging as a base for production of the compact range of electric cars for Cupra, Skoda and Volkswagen. But without a trace of Seat. In fact, in the current X-ray of the German consortium, Volkswagen is the brand of the highest quality, located just a little step behind Premiums such as Audi; Cupra has a more sporty approach and Skoda is the most accessible.
Wayne Griffiths, President of Seat, recently pointed out that “Seat is a company with two well-defined brands, Seat and Cupra, which are perfectly combined and are aimed at different types of customers “, although he clarified:” taking into account the current development of electric vehicles (in Spain, for example, only 5.6% of sales this year they are electrified vehicles: plug-in hybrids plus pure electric) we cannot electrify both brands (Cupra and Seat) at the same time. We have decided to start with Cupra because we want to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the electric vehicle manufacturers. Cupra is going to be the brand that will initially focus on 100% electric vehicles, while Seat will focus on plug-in hybrids and efficient combustion models ”.
The rise of Cupra (It has tripled its sales in three years and already represents more than 15% of the sales of the Seat company) and the production needs of electric vehicles (a project for which Seat seems to be excluded at the moment) in Martorell could end up leaving the brand as residual in the Volkswagen group as a whole, taking her to another role. Everything It started when the Born stopped being a Seat prototype to become a Cupra.
It will not disappear, but it will mutate acting as a gateway with products with a lower cost profile and propping up Cupra as a benchmark brand in the company that is moving towards full electrification (in 2030 they will only sell electric cars). It is also outlined to maintain the production of combustion vehicles, at least as long as the regulations allow it, something that the own Herbert Diess (CEO of the Volkswagen Group) already advanced two years ago in an exclusive interview with EL PERIÓDICO.
Currently the Seat range is made up of six models: Ibiza, Arona, Ateca, León, Alhambra and Tarraco. Solo tThree of them are manufactured in Martorell. Another fact, the Ibiza and the León are no longer the best sellers of the brand but have been superseded by the Arona. For now none of them have announced renovationsAlthough the new León entered the market just a year and a half ago (May 2020). The product cycles of a car are usually 12 years with an intermediate facelift, with which we would be in the final phase of Arona and Ibiza. The León will present its makeover in 2023. In any product plan, we speak of two years after the presentation of the prototype for putting it into production, and beyond that we still do not know any news in the range.
In industrial matters, if we talk about platforms, the Martorell plant assembles with the MQB (León and Cupra Formentor) and the MQB-A (Ibiza, Arona and Audi A1) and the possible arrival of the new platform for vElectric vehicles based on the Volkswagen Group MEB it would eliminate the compact combustion models (which have just received a restyling) from the equation, in a few years, and leave the Leon alone with its two bodies in production. Tarraco and Ateca are produced outside, so they are not Martorell assets.
A multi-brand plant
The combustion engines (including plug-in hybrids) are the short-medium term outlet valve for Seat. Matías Carnero, Chairman of the SEAT works council, he already envisioned this scenario in an interview with EL PERIÓDICO. “I think we are in a phase in which we must try to attract a model by taking advantage of the platforms we have in the factory. The idea would be to have a multi-brand line in which we can be making a Seat or any other car ”, a plausible scenario at least until 2030.
Carnero He also warned of this situation: “Seat is the primary brand and Cupra is a complement. The risk we have that we change that trend. Cupra gives us economic performance per car sold, added value. Seat leaves us profit and great profitability by volume. I already told Diess that we don’t want Seat to become a Nissan. And for that you have to invest and for that you have to have new models and not just renew what we already have in production. When Diess says they want Seat, I have my big doubts ”. The consortium itself has a ban on Seat in some markets such as South America, something that should change if it is committed to combustion engines.
Profit and not volume
The objective of the Seat company is focused on profits. “Profit,” Diess noted, adding: “Profit, no doubt. The plan is to maintain margins, more important than volumes. We will not seek to fight for the last car sold”. Cupra is the lifeline for a company that is no longer looking for volume but for profit in each model. Nevertheless, Wayne Griffits maintains the bet for Seat, although for now it has not been defined under what format. He recently affirmed forcefully that “Seat is not going to disappear. I am looking for what will be your site within the group. Perhaps for young people who do not want to buy a car it makes sense to subscribe or share a car ”, areas that the Spanish brand already know.
Seat began a couple of years ago a path of the future in an explorer plan was that of the mobility. Luca de Meo launched the micromobility proposal incorporating Seat MO to the company, providing Motorcycle sharing services and adding electric scooters and scooters to the brand offer.
Wayne Griffiths maintains that commitment to motosharing, something that will have to be explored a little more with cars. Nevertheless, Hebert Diess acknowledged that “we do not see that this is going to replace a large part of our business, of our planning. In 2030 it may be a maximum of 10%, but we see that in cities especially small electric cars can fulfill that function. They have their space. We have decided to bet on introducing carsharing in the largest cities and only with electric cars. Also thinking of people, who will thus have the opportunity to test and drive an electric car. Today is not a business, but it can be. There is not as much margin as in the sale of private cars, but you have to understand that business and participate in it ”. That It would be another of the departures for Seat as a brand.
All this is framed in a context in which hethe launch of PERTE by the Government plays a determining role. It depends on its start-up and commitment to the electric vehicle that the Volkswagen group confirms the award of the small vehicle platform to Martorell and of the SUVs a Landaben. If the decision is not produced quickly, the desired scenario for the Martorell plant would be catastrophic. The future of Martorell is at stake in this award. All indications point to it being achieved. What is clear is that it is necessary to reinvent itself and look towards the medium and long term, as it no longer has Seat as a brand but as a company in which Cupra will lead the force.