Seat President Luca de Meo had a hunch that the Spanish brand's Cupra trim line had the power to be more. This was confirmed when Cupra versions accounted for 10 percent of Seat's sales in Germany, Europe's biggest market. Cupra is now a stand-alone subbrand that will soon have seven models in its lineup. De Meo expects Cupra models to account for 10 percent of Seat's sales within four years. He explained why in an interview with Automotive News Europe Associate Publisher and Editor Luca Ciferri.
What convinced Seat to make the Cupra sporty trim line a separate subbrand?
It was the sales of the Cupra version of the Leon in Germany. This variant represents 10 percent of Leon sales there. My thought was: if we were able to reach such a penetration with Cupra in Europe's largest market, we should try to replicate this in the rest of Europe. The first target markets are Italy and France, where Seat's market share is just above 1 percent compared with more than 3 percent in Germany. The truth is that creating Cupra allows us to shorten the time needed to change the perception of the existing brand. With Cupra, we start at a higher level of perception than Seat. This could be crucial to our growth in Italy and France.
All future Cupra models will be based on Seat products. What are you doing to make Cupra stand apart from Seat?
We have a dedicated team that thinks only about Cupra 24-7. This team has the same reaction time and team spirit as a racing department. In the first phase, Cupra will launch seven models that are all derived from Seat products. After that we could also have stand-alone Cupra models. Nevertheless, even now Cupra is contributing to the Seat brand. There are a couple of future Seat models that would not have been feasible from a business perspective if we didn't have a higher-price, higher-margin Cupra variant.
What is your outlook for Cupra's sales?
During the 20 years that sporty Cupra variants were offered, we sold a total of 20,000 units of 17 models. Last year alone, we sold almost 10,000 Cupra variants. That means in 12 months we sold as many cars as we did in the first 19 years of the badge. In four years, I expect Cupra to represent at least 10 percent of Seat's European sales. This might happen even sooner, and we might sell even more than I expect, but I am being prudent.