Bespoke Cupra models could be on the way

22 Feb, 2018 3:30pm John McIlroy

New standalone Cupra brand could introduce its own cars, as well as hot versions of existing SEAT models

SEAT’s new Cupra standalone brand has the potential to introduce models of its own, the firm’s bosses have admitted for the first time.

As jumbo-bg reported last year, the plan for the Cupra division is currently for it to sell high-performance, higher-price versions of existing SEAT models - starting with the Ateca but also likely to expand to include the Ibiza and Arona, as well as the next Leon

• New Cupra Ateca revealed with 296bhp

However, speaking at the launch event for Cupra, SEAT’s head of sales and marketing, Wayne Griffiths, suggested that the motorsport-influenced brand could get its own models when it has used up the natural expansion of SEAT’s existing range. 

“We need to expand our product portfolio on Cupra,” Griffiths said. “Obviously we have the Cupra Ateca, and we’re looking at other models [Ibiza and Arona], although these aren’t confirmed just yet. There are other cars in the SEAT range and others to come in the years ahead. And who knows - it could even go so far as a car that exists purely as a Cupra car, at least initially.” 

If Cupra were to expand beyond the SEAT line-up, it would be most likely to do it at the highest price point possible, to ease the pressure on sales volumes and increase the potential profitability.

That would point to what could be a sister car to the forthcoming SEAT seven-seat SUV, which will be called Tarraco and revealed by the end of this year. A sketch revealed at the Cupra launch event (above) suggests this will take the form a large coupe SUV, judging by the cabin profile.

SEAT CEO Luca de Meo was more guarded on the possibility of a standalone Cupra, although he refused to rule it out. “What we will be able to do are projects using the platform of SEAT but projects that would not be feasible as a SEAT,” he said. When asked if that could extend to be a standalone Cupra vehicle he said, “You have to be able to afford it. We’ve seen other manufacturers try things like this and if you’re creating a whole new car, it has an effect on your P&L [profit and loss]. We have to be practical about this.” 

New Cupra Ibiza likely to arrive in 2019

Griffiths confirmed that SEAT wants to rapidly expand Cupra’s annual sales from the 2017 figure of 10,000 vehicles - perhaps even doubling it within the next five years. “We want this brand to be visible and that only happens when you do the numbers,” he said. “We’ll probably be looking at conquest sales from other brands making up around 80 per cent of Cupra’s volumes, too. But I want to clarify: we’re not trying to be premium with this. We want to sit in between mainstream and premium, appealing to younger customers who aren’t after a classic prestige brand.” 

SEAT hopes to achieve this by making Cupra a ‘tribe’ - a goal which, Griffiths claims, is reflected in the choice of logo. “There’s no real heritage to play on here,” he said. “But we want people to feel they belong to the Cupra tribe and we’re looking at lots of ways of achieving that - online, on events, even through a ‘Cupra World’ with merchandise and jackets, that sort of thing.” 

Opinion: A bold move that can only succeed if SEAT delivers Cupra with confidence’

Griffiths said that Cupra was open to using any SEAT model, although he suggested that the Mii city car would be a step too far - despite VW recently launching a GTI version of the car’s sister model, the up!. “When you consider that Cupra stands for performance as one of its pillars, I think that would be a struggle,” he said. “If we were to look at a mini car like that then I’d prefer us to do something through electrification.”

Customers will be able to buy Cupra models from any SEAT dealership, although the brand says only around a fifth of these will feature a full retail presence, complete with test cars and so-called ‘Cupra Masters’ sales staff.

Seven Cupra models are set to be launched over the next three years, with all cars receiving a four-year warranty - 12 months longer than the standard three-year guarantee offered on SEAT cars.

Do you think Cupra will be a success as a standalone brand? Let us know below...