Volkswagen group Spanish unit Seat plans seven new dealers in Rome as part of efforts to expand in the key Italian market, where sales are booming this year.

Seat has struck a deal with Rome-based dealership network Car Point for the expansion, which will boost its dealer count in Italy to 127 by late 2007, product communications manager Fernando Salvador told just-auto.

Car Point already operates two Seat dealers in the Italian capital. It will open three more this year and an additional two by the end of 2007, Seat said in a statement.

Seat's announcement comes as sales rose 20% in the first half, boosted by the sporty new Leon hatchback, of which the company sold 5,000 units, triple the older model's sales a year ago.

"This year is going fantastically well," Salvador said, adding that Seat hopes this year's volume will pass the 30,000 units sold in 2005.

Italy is Seat's third or fourth-most important European market after Spain and Germany, depending on how another key market - France -performs each year, Salvador noted.

Seat said it hopes to sell 2,000 units a year through Car Point, which has so far specialised in Ford models.

Seat has a 1.4% share of the Italian car market.

Ivan Castano

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more