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Cupra expected to build Porsche-based halo car

US market entry plans point to production sports car using new-gen Porsche 718 EV underpinnings

6 Sep 2023



CUPRA is expected to offer an all-new halo sports car model in a bid to lure North American customers as the brand builds up to a potential launch in the United States.


Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths announced the brand’s plans to expand into the US at IAA Mobility 2023 in Munich, where he outlined that the work is well underway to move beyond Europe, and beyond Australia, with the Spanish marque’s expansion.


“Cupra’s successful launch in Australia was the first step towards electrification in global markets, and now we’re looking at the next step,” said Mr Griffiths.


“Because if we want to be considered as a truly global brand, we have to think big. Which is why we are working on our entry strategy into the North American market.

“Believe me, we don’t underestimate how big a step this is. But at Cupra we love a challenge. Our plans in this area are moving in a positive direction, the testing of the brand with potential customers in states like California, where the results have been really encouraging,” he said. “And at the same time (we are) preparing a specific portfolio of BEV cars and our distribution strategy for the market.


“We’re also evaluating and looking at production options within the Volkswagen plants in the region, and I hope I will be able to share more information about this soon. But I’m confident we have the right strategy in place to make Cupra an American success story,” he said.

It is understood that Cupra could look to utilise both Volkswagen and Audi’s plants in Mexico to build the zero-emissions models for the US market, taking advantage of tax benefits and trade agreements in the process.


Mr Griffiths further stated that the brand’s entry into the US would need some kind of halo model to help the company make its mark, and that vehicle could be a production interpretation of the DarkRebel concept car shown at IAA Mobility 2023.


The new concept – which was shaped by feedback from more than 270,000 customers and enthusiasts from around the world – is a low-slung sports car with a shooting brake body style, and certainly doesn’t look much like anything else in the VW Group product portfolio.

However, Mr Griffiths said the brand needs something that can stand out, and a production-ready take on the DarkRebel theme could be the right vehicle for that job in the US.

“It’s not a traditional sports car because it's electric at that size… so we try to do something different than just a traditional sports car - that wouldn't make sense for us, we have great brands that do traditional sports cars, Porsche, Lamborghini, even Audi is doing sports cars. We have enough brands and we need to do something different otherwise it doesn’t make sense,” he said.


“But regarding the US, I mean, in terms of volume and profitability, you're right, you would need more of an SUV. Or to go into bigger segments. This is not a car to go and do volume or make money with.


“But this car would have a huge impact on our whole brand, and the brand position of Cupra and that is important. We're not doing this car for the volumes, or this profit opportunity or whatever, if we do this car, it’s to move the brand to the next level.


“As other cars have done for other brands in the past, as if we want to become an iconic brand, which we do, then you need icons. And this car could become an icon and now it's the right time to do it in our history,” he said.


When asked if the car would possibly sit upon a shared platform from within the Volkswagen Group, Mr Griffiths didn’t want to speak to the specifics of a potential production interpretation of the car.

“You don't know all the platforms that are planned in the Volkswagen Group at the moment, there are many brands in the Volkswagen Group and many possibilities,” he said.


“We don't have a platform. We have made a decision on platform, and I'm not getting into a platform discussion here today. This is a show car,” he said. “But we don’t do show cars that we can’t do. A show car is a provocation, it shows what you want to do with your design and how far you go. And in the past when we’ve done show cars - Formentor, Tavascan - the series production cars are pretty close to those show cars. It’s always our ambition to not tease and then not deliver, but to tease and then deliver.”


Cupra Chief Operating Officer, Sven Schuwirth, told GoAuto at the Cupra Space in Munich that the brand has a target in mind when it comes to a potential price point for such a model.


“I think it would not make sense to go for a 200,000 euro car, so it needs to be significantly below 100,000 for sure. Significantly below,” said Mr Schuwirth. For context, it would need to be USD$92,605 (A$145,281) to be less than €100,000, based on currency rates at the time of writing.


“Otherwise I think we would enter the territory of luxury brands which is not our aim because keeping in mind we are positioned as a contemporary brand always looking for the younger generations,” he said. “That’s the good thing about Volkswagen Group - there are many, many different platforms or technologies.”


When asked if it may share a platform with the new electric Boxster and Cayman models, which are expected to live under the 718 EV umbrella in their next generation guises, Mr Schuwirth replied, “could be”.


“We need a performance platform, a low one and also an affordable platform in order to achieve that price point, or to meet that price point,” said Mr Schuwirth.


He called out Cupra’s current most expensive model, the Formentor VZ5, which has a list price of €66,980 ($A112,658),  and indicated that somewhere near €75,000 (A$126,139) could be the ceiling for Cupra customers in Europe.


Cupra unveiled the DarkRebel concept vehicle at the Munich motor show this week, and the brand is expected to have a bumper year in 2024 as it restyles its range to bring the disparate models closer together in terms of design.


The company will launch facelifted versions of the Cupra Born electric hatchback, the Formentor midsize SUV and the Leon hatchback and Sportstourer, and will also launch the new Tavascan coupe-style crossover and the Terramar midsize SUV next year.


Cupra announced first-half 2023 operating profit of €370 million ($A622.3 million), and a turnover in excess of €7 billion ($A11.7 billion) in the first half of 2023.


The brand has so far sold 2109 vehicles in Australia to the end of August 2023, ahead of the likes of more established brands such as Peugeot (1649) and Genesis (1251).

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