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CUPRA Is the Automotive World's Youngest Brand as SEAT Announces Spinoff

Manufacturers used to be happy with having separate performance lines, but as the number of models benefitting from the enhanced sportiness grew, they started feeling like they were part of an actual sub-brand.
SEAT Leon Cupra R 1 photo
Some managers saw the potential in that, which is how completely separate brands such as Mercedes-AMG or, more recently, Volvo's Polestar came to be. Even though their ties with the mother company are obvious, they distance themselves a little from the every-day models for some extra credibility.

The latest to follow the trend is the Spanish carmaker SEAT. Part of the Volkswagen Group, it's fair to say the company has seen better days. Despite offering similar technology as you'd find in Volkswagen cars but at lower prices (and, usually, with arguably sexier exterior designs), SEAT hasn't had the success it probably deserved.

It's difficult to put the finger on exactly what went wrong, but the VW Group has always tried to make the Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo seem like the sportier choice out of its mainstream portfolio. Its Alfa Romeo, if you like, though that's stretching it a bit.

SEAT models had the same engines as their VW (and Skoda) counterparts, but they usually had slightly higher outputs. The interior lighting used to be red while the soundproofing was slightly less efficient, to let more of the engine roar get into the cabin. All these were subtle elements meant to give SEAT a more performance-oriented focus.

However, it wasn't until the CUPRA versions came along that it actually started to make sense. And the meaner, quicker Spanish models were more than just show: the Leon CUPRA briefly held the record for the quickest front-wheel-drive car on the Nurburgring, for example, which means they must have been doing something right.

Today, SEAT announced that CUPRA would become a stand-alone brand dealing, as before, with performance vehicles. It would get its own logo - also introduced today - but no word on exclusive models just yet.

The first cars wearing the new logo will be shown at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, but SEAT will host an official debut on February 22, about ten days ahead of the show's big opening. The company hasn't detailed exactly what models the new range will include, but since SEAT doesn't have that many models to begin with, expect to see almost all of them given the CUPRA treatment.



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