BERLIN -- Volkswagen Group's Spanish division, Seat, expects strong sales this year after deliveries grew by double-digit percentages in the first two months, thanks to new models and demand from southern Europe.
Full availability of the Ateca SUV introduced in 2016 and the launch of its smaller sibling, the Arona, later this year will drive demand, CEO Luca de Meo said. "2017 could be kind of a special year for Seat," de Meo told Reuters on Monday. "We have seen encouraging sales" in the first two months, he said.
Seat also expects a boost from the new Ibiza subcompact, its No. 2 seller globally after the Leon compact car. The Ibiza will debut at the Geneva auto show on March 7 with sales starting in June.
Seat's deliveries jumped 17 percent in January to 32,300 cars, the strongest growth of VW's five main car brands including Audi and Porsche. February sales data has yet to be released.
Seat's annual sales rose less than 3 percent in 2016 and 2015.
Seat, bought by VW in 1986, grappled for years with losses caused by under-used capacity at its main plant in Martorell, Spain.
De Meo said Seat, which has traditionally targeted young buyers with sporty compact models, would start as early as next year selling its cars with internet-connected services, including software to route drivers around traffic jams.
To underpin its push into digital services, Seat is wooing experts from technology firms and will open a research lab in Barcelona in April.
The brand will also test car sharing in its home city with electric prototype cars, he said, reflecting efforts by its German parent.
"A new world is opening up for us," de Meo said. "Our young customers put a lot of attention on connectivity."