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Volkswagen Wants An Alfa Romeo Rival Brand Once Again

Industry News / 10 Comments

Could this mean Seat is working on a world-beating sports sedan? Could it come to the US?

Chances are if you live in the United States, you've never heard of a car company called Seat. Seat is one of the VW Group's three-volume brands, which also includes the main Volkswagen brand and value-focused Skoda. The Spanish automaker mainly produces rebadged versions of Volkswagen cars but has created many special vehicles with its Cupra sports division. According to Automotive News Europe, Volkswagen has big plans for the Seat brand as a rival for FCA's Alfa Romeo, but in Europe only.

Volkswagen previously tried to position Seat as an Alfa Romeo fighter under the leadership of then-CEO Ferdinand Piech, the man who famously invented the Volkswagen Phaeton. Piech loved Alfa Romeo so much that he even attempted to buy it from then-FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne who said "As long as I am CEO of Chrysler and Fiat, Mr. Piech will never have Alfa Romeo. It's hands-off. I told him. I will call him and I will email him."

Now, current CEO Herbert Diess believes that Seat can appeal to buyers who are too young to remember Alfa Romeo's heyday. "Young, sporty, desirable, emotional - this is how we are positioning Seat a little higher," Diess explained while presenting the company's second-quarter earnings. "Today, Seat has a much better product mix than just a few years ago and has the youngest customers in the group network. I believe this brand still has plenty more potential," he said.

When it comes to Europe, Diess believes that "For people our age (Alfa) is a fantastic brand, but ever since I can remember Alfa has been on the decline," he said. "Ask a 25-35-year-old about Alfa, they are at a loss, they have no idea what Alfa is," he said.

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Diess isn't wrong, just ask young buyers in the US what they think about Alfa Romeo, which recently made its triumphant return to the US market - you'll probably get a bunch of blank stares. For Seat to truly pose a threat to Alfa Romeo, it would have to develop a rear-wheel-drive architecture to compete with the Giorgio platform. This could be accomplished, but it would be a massive undertaking. Unfortunately, all of this talk is focused on the European market only, so even if Seat does reposition itself as an Alfa Romeo rival it is unlikely that the company will start selling cars in the US.