PARIS -- Volkswagen Group's Seat brand expects its second SUV, the Arona, to play a big role in its goal to achieve long-term profitability.
The Arona will go on sale in Europe late next year after a likely debut at the Frankfurt auto show, competing against cars such as the Nissan Juke in the booming subcompact SUV/crossover segment.
Its styling will closely follow the recently launched Ateca compact SUV, the brand's first SUV.
Seat says the Arona is part of the brand's biggest ever product offensive. Other upcoming launches include:
• A face-lifted Leon compact hatchback. The Leon will get improved infotainment, connectivity and active safety systems that debuted in the Ateca. These will include a larger touchscreen and a system that keeps the car in lane and accelerates or brakes in slow-moving traffic. The restyled Leon will go on sale late this year or early next year.
• The new Ibiza subcompact hatchback. The car will be the first Volkswagen Group model to use the company’s new MQB A0 platform that will also underpin the next-generation VW Polo and an SUV derivative for VW brand. The platform will allow the Ibiza to offer VW Group's latest infotainment and safety equipment and the company's newest engines, giving the car a big boost in the highly competitive subcompact segment. Seat will debut the Ibiza at the Geneva auto show in March and begin sales in the summer.
Seat CEO Luca de Meo said next year's launches will give the brand a commercial, financial and image boost. "2017 will be a special year for Seat," he said in a statement.
The Ateca has attracted 21,000 orders this summer with many customers new to the brand, de Meo said. "It changes the game for us, it gives us completely different credibility" on profitability, he told Reuters in an interview at the Paris auto show earlier his month.
Seat may return to profit this year for the first time since 2008 and stay there through 2018, benefiting from demand for the new and redesigned models, de Meo said.
Cost cuts and sales of models with higher trim levels helped Seat to increase first-half operating profit to 93 million euros from 52 million a year earlier. Seat last year narrowed its operating loss to 10 million euros from 127 million in 2014, according to Volkswagen Group's annual report.
"If we have a bit of luck and markets don't collapse, I see the next three years as profitable years," de Meo said.
Seat's new-car sales in the EU and EFTA markets in the first eight months were flat at 233,964 in a total market up 7.8 percent, according to data from industry association ACEA. In August, the brand's volume grew by 18 percent after the Ateca hit the market.
In Paris, Seat unveiled the Ateca X-Perience, an all-wheel drive concept with higher ground clearance and rugged looks. The concept showcases a potential off road-focused production variant at the top of the Ateca range.
De Meo said Seat may offer an electric car by about 2020 as VW Group pushes zero-emission technology across its 12 brands.
Reuters contributed to this report