BERLIN - Seat returned to profitability in 1998 because of a new management team, strong support from Volkswagen AG, and the group's common platform strategy, said Bruno Adelt, acting chief executive of VW's Spanish subsidiary.
Adelt, who is VW's management board member for finance, spoke at the Automotive News Europe Congress. He is temporarily running Seat following the departure of Pierre-Alain de Smedt.
De Smedt, Seat's president since January 1997 has been named executive vice president of Renault.
Volkswagen is sharing platforms across its range of brands to lower development costs. Some VW group dealers have complained that the strategy is confusing customers, offering up too many models that are too much alike.
Adelt disputed that. 'I do not think we are confusing the customers,' he said. 'Quite the opposite. I believe that the platform strategy serves the customers' needs and wishes - and it serves the company.'
He said the platform strategy has enabled Seat to create attractive products, enlarge the product range with niche cars, and design models that fit Seat's brand slogan - 'The Automotive Joy of Life.'
Adelt said Seat has achieved a clear profile as a fashionable brand with Mediterranean roots and a lifestyle orientation. He cited the front end of the new Seat Toledo and the restyled Ibiza/Cordoba range as examples of Seat's brand character.
'We started to develop a Seat brand bible around 1991, soon after VW acquired full control of the company,' Adelt said. 'This brand profile is constantly adapted and developed further. It has to be put into the perspective of the other brands in the group.'
After VW acquired Skoda in 1991 the roles in the Volkswagen group were redefined. Adelt said Seat is now strategically positioned to compete with Fiat's Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands. Last year, VW hired Alfa Romeo chief designer Walter de' Silva to head Seat styling.
'The more brands we own,' Adelt said, 'the more important it is to have a clear brand differentiation and distinctive positioning.'
Speaker: Bruno Adelt
Title: Chief financial officer, Volkswagen group; acting chief executive of Seat
Theme: Seat is building a unique brand character while benefiting from VW's common platform strategy
Quote: 'The more brands we own the more important it is to have a clear brand differentiation and distinctive positioning'