Q&A: Seat boss Luca De Meo on the future of Cupra

Luca de Meo

Luca de Meo heads Seat and its new Cupra brand

Seat’s SEO explains why the firm has turned Cupra into a standalone brand

Since taking the top job at Seat in November 2015, Luca de Meo has seen the Volkswagen Group brand’s sales grow, thanks to the popularity of the Ateca and Arona SUVs and the latest generation Ibiza.

But now de Meo has taken one of his boldest moves yet, turning Seat’s Cupra performance badge into a full standalone marque. Starting with the 296bhp Cupra Ateca, the new brand will launch seven Cupra models in the next three years. Speaking at the launch event for Cupra, de Meo explained the reasons for the move, and his plans for the brand.

Why launch Cupra as a standalone brand?

“The first reason is that we’ve seen from experience and data that Cupra models do very well in some markets. In Germany, for example, Cupra models make up 10-15% of the [Seat] market share, so we can push for differing sensibilities for such products.

“Also, Seat has put a focus on growing and gaining credibility, but in some markets there is still some rejection of the Seat brand from people who are, let’s say, image sensitive. This we can fix, but we need time. Cupra is starting from scratch with something new. We start from a green field, and maybe with that we can attract customers that in other cases might not buy a Seat. Selling those kind of cars for us is much more profitable. This allows us to increase the conquest of the brand.”

296bhp Cupra Ateca revealed as first car from Seat performance brand

Will there be standalone Cupra models?

“Our decision is to work on variants [of Seat models], but I don’t want to unveil too much of our future product plan, because we are not in a hurry to tell you the full story, and it will take years to get to the level we want. The main stream of our thinking is to use the base we have with Seat models and develop them, and make every generation each time more extreme, sophisticated and different.

“When we are able to have that kind of platform there may be some projects that would be unfeasible on the Seat brand that might find a justification from a financial point of view because we have achieved a certain price point. Our ambition is to do something that authentically expresses our vision of what Cupra should be. We have a few things in the drawer, but for the time being our decision is to work on variants.”

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Will Cupra be separate from Seat?

“My assumption is that this thing will stay in the world of Seat. It’s kind of an elite team that works on expressing the best of what we can, but the whole thing will be part of our organization. If this team is able to get to the next level that will have an influence on all of Seat. It’s a cultural effect.”

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What is the positioning of Cupra in the market?

“We see the pricing for Cupra models falling between volume and premium. We still want to be a value for money proposition. There is no car like the Ateca Cupra in the market at the moment.”

How does this move change what Cupra is?

“Today, Cupra is a badge for car enthusiasts, and we’ve sold over 60,000 units in 40 countries in the past 20 years. But the decision to launch Cupra as a standalone brand is not just a business decision or an engineering move: this is a delcaration of love for motoring, in a society that has become unfriendly to the sector.”

Read more

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Cupra Ibiza: images of new Seat sub-brand hot hatch leak

296bhp Cupra Ateca revealed as first car from Seat performance brand

Source: Autocar Online

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