Volkswagen Up! to get SEAT Tribu Sibling

By Automotive Staff | June 05, 2008
SEAT [pronounced say-aht, not like the synonym for chair], the Spanish arm of Volkswagen, is striving to help its corporate overlords reach their goal of being the number-one seller of vehicles in the world towards the end of the next decade by pledging to double its sales worldwide to 800,000 units annually by 2018. To do so, it will introduce a raft of new models by then, starting with the new Ibiza that will début later on this year. The Ibiza is a subcompact, along the lines of its sister cars, the VW Polo and the Škoda Fabia; the upcoming version will be the fourth generation of the popular vehicle. Another upcoming vehicle will be based off the Audi A4 platform, and will become available in early 2009 in European markets. In addition, SEAT is expected to unveil its version of Volkswagen’s Up! concept car, and is close to making a decision whether or not to produce a production version of its Tribu SUV concept, which made the round of recent auto shows. The Tribu would be based on the same platform as the new Volkswagen Tiguan, and would compete not only with the Tiguan, but with the (European) Ford Kuga and the Toyota RAV4.
Adding new models to the mix is important, because, according to Frank Bekemier, the vice president of research and development at SEAT, "We have to reduce our reliance on Ibiza and Leon," since they account for 70% of SEAT’s sales. If achieving the lofty goal of doubled sales in a decade is to succeed, new markets must be found for SEAT’s vehicles. Long a presence in the European market, SEAT has recently entered Mexico, where there are now dealers in 27 states. South America has also been looked at for new sales territory, along with Russia and China. SEAT considered entering the Canadian market in 1994 (but never did); there are occasional rumors that it may want to enter the U.S. and Canadian markets from time to time, but those rumors have yet to become reality. Would North American buyers be interested in SEAT’s sporty take on Volkswagen’s products? We think some would—but it would take some effort to introduce a new brand to the North American auto market. However, if Hyundai and Kia could become recognizable brand names in North America (starting from zero name recognition), one day SEAT could be instantly recognizable as well. (First off, they should start by telling the American and Canadian public that there are two syllables in their name!) via Carpages