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Paris show: VW boss denies imminent Seat return

Going nowhere: Volkswagen's Spanish brand Seat is unlikely to return to the Australian market any time soon, according to thr German giant's local MD.

European and Chinese priorities keep Seat away from Australian return

9 Oct 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

SPANISH car-maker Seat is unlikely to return to Australia in the near future, despite local news reports suggesting that the Volkswagen Group-owned brand was plotting a comeback.

Prompted by comments made by Seat chairman Jurgen Stackmann, Volkswagen Australia managing director John White admitted that his company has conducted extensive research on Seat’s behalf about the viability of returning to this market.

However, he said that this is par for the course and in no way a confirmation that the Spanish-based firm would return.

Some local automotive publications quoted Mr Stackmann from the Paris motor show as saying that he would like to sell cars into Australia, but not before dealing with sales issues in Europe, expanding into China, and having the right types of vehicles on offer.

“Articles appearing (last year) after interviewing Jurgen Stackmann about Seat’s interest in perhaps considering Australia… subsequently to that, there was some work that was done at their request for us to do some preliminary evaluation in terms of whether there would be space for Seat in Australia, what that would look like, and if they wanted to enter, what would be the conditions around which they could enter so they could make some investment decisions from their respective,” Mr White said.

“So we’ve supplied that information, we’ve gone back and forth with Seat, but really right now it’s really in their court in Spain.

“And I understand there were comments attributed to Mr Stackmann again last week out of Paris that it is still on their radar screen and right now it is a project that is still under investigation… but there are no firm decisions at this point of time.”

Mr White believes the price of entering Australia might be prohibitively high for Seat at this stage, adding that the brand has to fit with the rest of the marques in the Volkswagen Group.

“Australia is a very crowded market for sure,” he said. “And the entrance of any new brand into the Australian market is going to be difficult and expensive.

“And you just can’t bring a brand in without making an investment – whether you’re called Seat or Opel last year, or whatever.

“And if you do bring in a brand, where would you position it within the group versus Volkswagen versus Skoda? Because it’s not about cannibalising business from Volkswagen and Skoda, it’s about getting incremental business – and that’s where the challenge is, because the gaps are pretty narrow in between.

Mr White did not rule a Seat return out, adding that there are some markets that where several VW Group brands successfully co-exist.

“That being said, we do have some countries where we’re successful having Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen, Audi, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, especially in the European space and all in the same markets.

“It’s not impossible, but it is not an easy task.”

The last (and only) time Seat cars were sold in Australia was between 1995 and 1999, when the Ibiza light car, Cordoba small car and Toledo mid-sizer were on offer.

However, sales were slow and the brand pulled out after two separate marketing pushes during 1999.

Seat used to be an acronym for ‘Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo’, and came about in 1950 as Spain was recovering from World War II.

Initially it was partnered with Fiat until a dispute over a shared model led to Volkswagen moving in and gradually acquiring 100 per cent share of the firm in late 1990.

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