What’s In a Badge? SEAT & Cupra

Audi’s Spanish sister brand SEAT is apparently set to undergo a bit of a transformation according to rumors emanating from this week’s IAA Mobility show in Münich. AutoCar Magazine is reporting the news, stemming from a quote from brand chairman Thomas Schäfer when he stated, “The future of SEAT is Cupra”.

For those not watching the Volkswagen Group’s Spanish subsidiary not sold in the U.S. or Canada, more and more models have come to market devoid of SEAT branding, instead using the name “‘Cupra”. That name originated on the brand’s performance models, like RS at Audi. More recently, it’s been the only branding on products like the Tavascan crossover that seem to have a sexier design language than the more reserved SEAT models.

As a brand, SEAT began life in Spain building kit versions of Fiat models. Once acquired by Volkswagen, it moved solidly to the Volkswagen Group chassis architecture, typically transverse architectures like the current MQB components, though it did briefly sell a version of the B7 after Audi had moved on to the B8. SEAT was briefly grouped with Audi in a more emotionally-driven grouping that included Lamborghini in the earlier days of VW Group’s early 2000s expansion where brand management kept the more passionate brands on one side and ht more logical brands such as VW, Skoda, Bentley and Bugatti (?) on the other.

Those divisions are long gone, but SEAT’s presence in the VW Group is relevant to Audi, and so is its partnership like the role SEAT Sport has played in developing and supporting TCR racecars such as the RS 3 LMS.

Back to the rumor, it sounds like there’s a repositioning going on… and one perhaps inspired by movement seen elsewhere in the industry… think Polestar. Though pronounced, Say-Yacht, SEAT doesn’t translate well in English markets where the word literally means chair, base or butt. It’s also not particularly exotic sounding. Not so Cupra, which likely polls better with customers seeking something a little more exotic and has more market potential in lucrative potential expansion markets such as the USA. Volvo already tried this by making its performance sub-brand Polestar into its own stand-alone electric car brand. Likely that model was considered as SEAT begins a transition.

According to the AutoCar story, the SEAT brand won’t be retired, but it will likely move away from series production road vehicles. Schafer suggested a different role for SEAT. AutoCar mentioned the SEAT Mó e-scooter as one possible direction. Another might be engineering, building on SEAT’s own prowess in the TCR space.