SEAT will be ready to fully embrace plug-in hybrid and electric models by 2020. As part of the Volkswagen Group, the Spanish brand – now eyeing sustainable profitability after years of losses – has access to hybrid tech being developed by the likes of Volkswagen and Audi in the Golf GTE and A3 e-tron. But SEAT has no immediate plans to introduce hybrid models to its range.
Chairman Jürgen Stackmann told Auto Express: “It’s a question of time not a question of if the brand will turn electric. But currently we have zero demand for electric cars.
“So we are focusing on our 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder engine and our TGI compressed natural gas engine. We think we can get to 2020 without having a lot of electric propulsion systems.
“Clearly, after 2020 towards 2025 we will see the introduction of electric drive into SEAT because that is what the EU asked us to do. But of course the true question is when can we have a system that is affordable to customers.”
Crossover SUVs central to SEAT growth plans
For the time being, the brand’s focus remains on its core models – the Leon and Ibiza – and its ambitious plan to roll out three SUVs before 2020.
A Nissan Qashqai and VW Tiguan-sized SUV is first on the agenda in 2016, and is likely to be followed by a supermini-crossover in 2017. A third, bigger, model, hinted at by the 20V20 concept seen at the Geneva Motor Show, is planned for around 2020.
And Stackmann is bullish about the chances of the Qashqai-sized car. “I am confident we have nailed it well,” he said. “The intention is not to be too off-roadish, but elegant, sporty and agile.”
SEAT’s plans will not be affected by the recent turmoil at the top of the Volkswagen Group, which saw chairman Ferdinand Piech resign after losing his power struggle with chief executive Martin Winterkorn.
“We have a strategy that is 100 per cent in line with what the Group wants and I feel zero irritation to my plan,” he said. “Our strategy has not been altered a single inch.”
And that strategy does not include a sports car, Stackmann confirmed. “It is bottom of the priority list,” he admitted. “We have a successful sports car, Cupra.”
SEAT UK dealer network set for an upgrade
Meanwhile, the brand’s attempts to improve its dealer network are gathering pace.
SEAT’s network was voted rock bottom of Auto Express’s Driver Power survey last year, and the company has previously admitted it was concerned with the findings. LINKS). It is now overhauling its dealerships by refreshing the premises with a new corporate identity and immersing dealers in the ethos and passion of the brand with visits to the Martorell factory in Barcelona.
New SEAT Director of UK Richard Harrison said: “We have five of the new dealers live already and will have 30 by the end of the year.”