A marketing strategy of giving away dance and drink passes to young people at university campuses and elsewhere has brought Spanish carmaker SEAT rich rewards in Mexico, writes Stephen Downer.

The Volkswagen-owned company entered the market in April 2001 and, in its first nine months, retailed 11,843 vehicles, a figure the Spanish carmaker laboured for four years to achieve in Brazil.

In the first six months of this year, SEAT Mexico retailed 12,170 vehicles, according to the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA). The company aims to sell 18,000 vehicles to the Mexican public this year.

"We learned a lot from Volkswagen's experience in Mexico over the past 40 years," said Alejandro Franz Rodriguez, 31-year-old managing director of SEAT Mexico.

"It's also a market with a lot of young people, which is reflected in our marketing strategy, with invitations to young people to spend the night with us at a discotheque."

Forty percent of the Mexican company's marketing budget is invested in such below-the-line activities, he said. SEAT markets the Ibiza, Leon, Cordoba, Toledo and Alhambra in Mexico, and introduced the Leon Cupra R 2003 in July.

Andreas Schleef, president of SEAT International's executive committee, commented in May he had never expected such strong sales in Mexico in such a short time.

Franz said SEAT's head office in Martorell, near Barcelona, would have been satisfied with sales of 7,000 in Mexico in the first year.

Vale Bates, of Mexico City, handles SEAT's advertising in Mexico.

New passenger car and truck retail sales in Mexico in the first six months of the year totalled 478,403 vehicles, according to AMIA.

The Mexican retail market last year was 918,835 vehicles.