Seat and Cupra’s future: ‘it has always been clear’ | CAR Magazine

Seat and Cupra’s future: ‘it has always been clear’

Published: 21 March 2024 Updated: 21 March 2024

► CEO hits back at Seat speculation
► Cupra electrifies and drives big margins
► ‘You will see Seat bouncing back’, says Griffiths

The Seat brand isn’t going anywhere, according to Seat S.A.’s CEO. After months of speculation and confusion over the Seat brand’s future as the Cupra brand continues to rise in popularity, Wayne Griffiths has responded in an effort to clarify the brand’s strategy going forward.

Volkswagen brand boss, and Seat S.A. chairman of the board, Thomas Schäfer, said to journalists (including CAR) at the IAA Mobility show in Munich in 2023 that ‘the future of Seat is Cupra.’ Since then, the automotive industry has been awash with speculation about the future direction of what looks like a brand that’s being starved of significant investment, having had no significant new product launches of note since the seven-seat Tarraco SUV that launched in 2018 and the fourth-generation Leon in 2020.

Addressing the confusion and speculation, Seat S.A.’s 2024 Annual Media Conference, Griffiths said: ‘I never deliberately left it open [to interpretation]. For me it was always clear but there has been some unclarity outside of the business. For us and our 15,000 employees that work in Seat, why would you let a brand that’s existed for 70 years disappear?

‘The question is when is the right time to do what? When is the right time for which priority? My priority as president of the company is giving a future to the company, and that future is electrification – Cupra is necessary as well to give that future.’

And that plan seems to be working: Cupra is one of the fastest-growing car brands in Europe at the moment and the overall Seat S.A. group ‘posted the best financial results in its 73-year history,’ according to Griffiths.

That electrified future that Griffiths speaks of includes future models like the Tavascan EV, Terramar plug-in hybrid SUV and ID.2-based Raval electric supermini are on the way. The brand has even been able to create wild concept cars like the DarkRebel.

Griffiths points out the Cupra brand’s wider margins in the brand’s financial results announced at the 2024 conference, whereby revenue per Cupra vehicle is 34 per cent higher than a Seat one. ‘The Cupra margins illustrated in our results… we need that to invest in the future and we will continue investing in Seat,’ says Griffiths. ‘With the new availability of semiconductors, we can push on the Seat volumes again and you will see Seat bouncing back.’

As Cupra electrifies, Griffiths maintains there’s still a place for Seat. However, future steps are still tentative, as the strategy seems to be maintaining course as much as possible – even as the Seat brand reported ‘double digit’ sales growth in 2023.

‘We will be investing in combustion cars and looking at when is the right time to do an electric Seat. Today’s not the right time – it wouldn’t be profitable, and we can’t divert our investments into things that don’t guarantee future sustainability for the company. Not yet,’ says Griffiths.

As well as potentially electrifying in the years to come, it’s long been discussed that Seat could turn into a ‘mobility brand’, selling smaller mobility devices like scooters – with the MO scooter just the start.

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches