Cupra Ateca: the first vehicle for what had been a trim level but is now a brand

Cupra Ateca: the first vehicle for what had been a trim level but is now a brand

Buoyed by a young model range and the addition of multiple crossover/SUVs, SEAT made 2018 its best year yet for vehicle sales, finally breaking a record set in 2000. Crucially, the company is making decent money too, something which had eluded it for a long time.

Unlike the far more profitable and successful Skoda, SEAT has quite a global reach, selling albeit modest numbers of vehicles in the Americas as well as parts of Africa. The strategies provide an interesting contrast to Skoda's major achievement in being a good sized player in China, although against that, the Czech brand remains small in the Indian market.

SEAT will be given a second shot at China in 2021 when Volkswagen sends it back there as a partner to JAC in an electric vehicles joint venture. Will there be much money to be made though? The jury is out on that question.

What's not in doubt is how fruitful the rewards from Volkswagen's investments in SUVs for SEAT continue to be. Aside from the VW Tiguan, buyers in Europe's largest market aren't as interested in such vehicles to the same degree as most other Europeans (the Passat was the second best selling vehicle in 2018, behind the Golf, and then the Tiguan). Which explains why the Leon remains the most popular SEAT amongst Germans, some 45,000 having been delivered there last year. This, remember, is a top-ten brand in that market, way bigger there than Toyota or Nissan and ahead of Hyundai too. And the SUV bug might finally be catching: the Arona and Ateca each did in excess of 20,000 units in 2018.

Flushed with the success of its higher-priced models not just in Germany but in multiple other countries, SEAT is now trying a bold experiment: creating a new, premium-priced division out of what had been a sub-brand. Will Cupra succeed? It's certainly an unusual move, considering that the first model is an SUV, not a hatchback as had been the former remit of Cupra-based models. Pricing is also lofty, at least for the initial model, which is a version of the SEAT Ateca. Later, what insiders are calling the Terramar will be added to the line-up. Details of this model can be found in PLDB (see the link to just-auto's future vehicle's database at the end of this report).

Cupra

SEAT held an event in February 2018 just ahead of the Geneva motor show where it revealed the Cupra Ateca to the media. It is believed that Cupra is intended to be a rival for Renaultsport.

The modified Ateca (badges, wheels, front and rear ends) uses the Volkswagen Group's 221kW (300PS) 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine, has all-wheel drive and a seven-speed DSG. As with the SEAT Ateca, the Cupra is manufactured in the Czech Republic by Škoda at its Kvasiny factory. The Europe-wide sales launch began in December.

Prototypes of a Cupra Ibiza and a Cupra Arona were also shown to the press at the February 2018 preview in Barcelona. Each should be in showrooms later in 2019, with the Cupra Terramar to follow in 2020. Next year will also bring with it a Cupra León. Until then, the existing SEAT León Cupra remains available.

SEAT

The next Mii is again expected to be manufactured in Slovakia. It should be built alongside the successors for the VW up! and Skoda Citigo as well as a new model for Audi.

As SEAT discontinued the three-door versions of the first generation Mii in August 2018, the company is unlikely to offer the next model in anything other than five-door form.

The current Ibiza was the first vehicle for the Volkswagen Group's Modular Quer Baukasten (MQB) A0 platform. The fifth generation model was revealed at an event in Spain at the end of January 2017, five weeks ahead of its motor show debut in Geneva. The ST was dropped from the range of the previous model in 2016 so there is no estate/wagon with this generation.

Production on Line 1 at Martorell commenced in May 2017. SKD assembly at what was at the time a new plant in Algeria commenced two months later.

The Ibiza should be manufactured for seven years, which means a facelift towards the end of 2021 and then a successor in 2024. There could be an electrified version to come, possibly in 2022.

In the B-crossover segment, SEAT competes with the 4,138mm long Arona. It can be thought of as an SUV version of the fifth generation Ibiza even though it is 79mm longer and 99mm taller than the five-door hatchback. It went on sale across Europe from late 2017. There should be a facelift in mid-2021 and a successor in 2025.

The replacement for the León is due to appear in late 2019. A plug-in hybrid derivative will be offered for the first time as part of the line-up. SEAT confirmed at a March 2018 media event that the next model would come as a five-door hatchback and wagon. There is no three-door car in the current range either: the SC was quietly discontinued a few months ago.

The second of three SEAT crossovers or SUVs is the 4,363mm long Ateca. This model, which is aimed at the Nissan Qashqai's segment, had its public debut at the Geneva motor show in March 2016. Deliveries began in August 2016, with both front- and all-wheel drive variants available.

There is said to be a possibility that SEAT will add an SUV-coupé based on this model, in 2020. That would also be when the Ateca is due to receive a mild restyle. The Ateca 2 will be on sale in the third quarter of 2023. Its platform an update of MQB A/B.

The second generation generation Ateca will not be built in the same factory as the current one, Volkswagen announced in November 2018. It should be manufactured in a new plant which the Group plans to have erected in Turkey.

The second generation Alhambra, announced to the media just short of nine years ago, is the twin of the Volkswagen Sharan. Given that the segment where these two compete has contracted so drastically, it seems unlikely that either will be replaced. Production is due to end later this year.

SEAT has recently added the Taracco, an additional SUV, to its model range. There are five- and seven-seat variants and these are aimed at the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Ford Edge, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. Volkswagen builds all variants of this 4,735mm long model in Wolfsburg on the same line as the Tiguan and Tiguan Allspace.

A 210PS and 400Nm petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain will be added later in the year.

SEAT president Luca de Meo says he does not see the brand moving into the size territory above where the Tarraco sits. The Volkswagen Group may of course change these instructions for its Spanish division in the coming years, depending on market trends and SEAT's own profitability.

There is said to be a possibility that SEAT will add an SUV-coupé, potentially to be based on this model, in 2020.

Fully electric models

There are three BEVs in SEAT's near future. These being the e-Mii (see link to PLDB at the end of this report), 'e-Born' and a special model for China which is to be part of a JV with JAC.

SEAT's first fully electric production model will enter production in 2020. The vehicle will be based on the Volkswagen Group's MEB architecture and around the same size as the Leon. The range is to be close to 500km. There is ongoing conjecture about the name, which might be Born, Born-e or e-Born. The car will be closely related to the production version of the Volkswagen I.D. concept although unlike the VW, the SEAT will be a crossover. A preview of the production model will be at the Geneva motor show in March.

As for the future EV for China, Volkswagen told the media in July last year that an MoU between itself, Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group (JAC) and SEAT had been signed. The three are now in the process of setting up an R&D centre. Its focus is for the development of electrified vehicles, connectivity and autonomous driving technology plus a platform for battery electric vehicles (BEV).

The SEAT brand will be (re)-introduced to China "by 2020/2021". A second media statement in November saw this date shifted to "by 2021" and noted that work on the R&D centre would be started by the end of 2018.

Recent reports for many other manufacturers' future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models as well as additional vehicles which are not in the feature above such as the SEAT e-Mii and Cupra Terramar can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE.

Following this feature, and after others covering Skoda; VW cars; as well as VW pick-ups and SUVs, the next make to be featured in the Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft series will be Audi. The series will completed by two others: Porsche; and then finally; Bugatti, Bentley and Lamborghini.

Expert analysis

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