Spanish car maker SEAT, part of the Volkswagen group, is to spend €5bn on R&D over the next four years to electrify its range of vehicles. It is also launching electric scooters that it will rent out.
Alongside the development of CUPRA as a brand for its electric vehicles, the company will recruit 100 people to work at SEAT:CODE, a new software development centre in the centre of Barcelona. The 150 team will supply software for SEAT, CUPRA and other Volkswagen vehicles.
SEAT says it will invest the €5bn from 2020 to 2025 for new R&D projects for vehicle development at SEAT’s Technical Centre specifically to electrify the range. The cash will also be used for equipment and facilities at the Martorell, Barcelona and Componentes plants.
“This investment plan is our way of dealing with the future with determination and optimism, so that we will have a stronger, more innovative and more sustainable company. Our willingness is that Martorell will manufacture electric vehicles from 2025 onward, when the electric vehicle market will have grown,” said Carsten Isensee, president of SEAT.
“Our goal is to drive the transformation of the automotive sector in Spain. To ensure the future of the car industry in Spain we need the collaboration of the central, regional and local Administrations. We cannot do it alone. The plan presented by the Spanish Government is a move in the right direction to continue developing the automotive sector.”
Cupra will be a new brand, separate from Seat. “Seat and CUPRA are essential for the development of the company. Each one has its clear role, its own personality and attributes and addresses different customer profiles. They therefore fully complement and cannot substitute each other,” said Wayne Griffiths, CEO of Cupra and Vice-president for Sales and Marketing for Seat. “Seat is the entry gate to the Volkswagen Group: we have the youngest customers, on average 10 years younger, and many first-time buyers.”
Next: CUPRA electric vehicles
“CUPRA on the other hand, targets a new market segment that lies between the mass market and the traditional premium market,” he said. The first CUPRA vehicle, the el-Born, was designed and developed in Barcelona, and as planned, it will be manufactured in Zwickau, Germany, on VW’s MEB platform, in 2021.
“Seat is, and will be even more so in the future, a company with two well-defined brands within its structure: SEAT and CUPRA,” said Isensee. “SEAT and CUPRA are two sides of the same coin. SEAT gives CUPRA the volume basis for growth in terms of production, R&D and human resources, and CUPRA allows SEAT to move its centre of gravity towards more emotional cars with a higher positioning.”
“The disruption taking place within the automotive industry is an ideal opportunity for new brands like CUPRA to emerge,” said Griffiths. “We believe the potential of CUPRA is so big that we could hit €1 billion revenue when the full product range is available in the market.”
The company has bounced back from the Covid-19 pandemic, says Isensee. “The first half of the year has been possibly one of the most challenging in SEAT’s history. The 2020 and 2021 financial years were expected to be difficult and we must now add the very serious impact of COVID-19 on the automotive industry,” he said. “In recent weeks we have begun to see a slight improvement as we began to resume activity. We are confident of a recovery, at least partially, during the second half of 2020.”
The SEAT plant in Martorell has almost completely regained its pre-coronavirus production rate and today is producing around 1,900 vehicles daily, and the Barcelona and Componentes plants are also close to returning to pre-coronavirus volumes.
The Martorell factory now heads into the second half of a year which will be marked by the start of production of the new Formentor, the first 100% CUPRA model, and the new plug-in hybrid Leon. Both vehicles will be manufactured on line 2 at the Martorell plant, which this year has launched the fourth generation of the Leon.
In addition to having 4-wheel vehicles, the SEAT brand is also going to offer 2-wheel scooters: the 100% electric SEAT MÓ eScooter 125 and the SEAT MÓ eKickScooter 65. These will initially be available on a subscription sharing model in Barcelona, highlighting the shift from vehicle maker to transport supplier.
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