Seat UK managing director Peter Wyhinny is in favour of a government-backed scrappage scheme to stimulate the car market but it should be different to those previously used successfully in Spain and France.
“Should there be a scrappage scheme? Absolutely. Should it just be used to stimulate small car sales? I don’t think so. To me a percentage-based incentive would work very well. It’s got to be consumer-driven, so it needs to start at the demand-end, and creates a need to purchase,” he said in Geneva.
Without it, the year will be “very difficult” – but Wyhinny is nevertheless “quietly confident” that VW ’s Spanish brand can ride the recession through 2009. New product launches will continue to bolster the brand and drive it into new sectors, he said.
“We couldn’t have picked a better time to launch the new Ibiza,” he said. “We’ve been having some real success with that product, bucking the trend in the retail market – and we’ve only got our initial derivatives on sale.”
Coming is the ultra-clean EcoMotive diesel version that delivers just 98g/km of CO2 – Seat’s version of VW’s BlueMotion system. This will join EcoMotive Leon (119g/km) and Alhambra (159g/km) models in the range.
“It’s great to be able to share the group investment in technology – as an independent manufacturer we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Wyhinny said.
Also coming is a common-rail diesel Ibiza 1.6, and then the FR and Cupra performance variants.
“Even the Cupra at 180bhp comes in at under 160g/km of CO2 – we’re lowering emissions not emotions.”
The next major product offensive starts in April, when the Exeo goes on sale. The ST estate version was unveiled in Geneva, and that will go on sale from late July.
“They will reintroduce us to the fleet and corporate world,” said Wyhinny.
The Exeo is based on the previous-generation Audi A4, which has allowed Seat access to an upmarket D-segment sedan with minimal R&D costs.
Even so, Exeo is more than just a rebadged Audi. The interior uses the most recent variant of the Audi dashboard from the A4 cabrio, for example, and interior colours and finishes have been changed to reflect the more sporty, southern European feel of Seat brand.
Later this year, existing Seat products such as Leon and Altea get an extensive facelift, including new two-litre petrol and TDI common-rail diesel engines, plus new features including hill hold control, bi-xenon headlamps and steering wheel paddle gearchanges on DSG-equipped models.
But the Toledo is now available to special order only, as demand is low and Exeo takes its place as the biggest Seat car.