SEAT are renowned for their high-quality build and sharp designs that give the cars a great kerb appeal and driver satisfaction rating.
AP Autocare is Bristol’s favourite garage for SEAT cars. Popular SEAT models, that AP Autocare service, repair and MOT are:
SEAT (Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo) is a Spanish automobile manufacturer with its head office in Martorell, Spain. It was founded on 9th May 1950 by the Instituto Nacional de Industria (INI), a Spanish state-owned industrial holding company. It quickly became the largest supplier of cars in Spain. In 1986, the Spanish government sold SEAT to the German Volkswagen Group of which it remains a wholly-owned subsidiary.
The headquarters of SEAT is based at SEAT's industrial complex in Martorell near Barcelona. By 2000 its annual production peaked at over 500,000 units. From 1950 up to 2006, over 16 million cars were produced including more than 6 million from the Martorell plant. Three-quarters of their annual production is exported to over 70 countries worldwide.
Today SEAT is the only major Spanish car manufacturer with the ability and infrastructure to develop its own cars in-house.
Its headquarters and main manufacturing facilities are located in Martorell which is an industrial town located around 30 km northwest of Barcelona. The facility has a production capacity of around 500,000 units per annum. The plant was opened on 22nd February 1993 by King Juan Carlos of Spain.
The industrial complex in Martorell hosts the facilities of SEAT Sport, SEAT's Technical Center, Research and Development Center, Design Center, Prototypes Centre of Development, SEAT Service Center (also incorporating the After-Sales Service division, the Customer Services division and the Catalunya Motor dealership), as well as the Genuine Parts Centre for SEAT, Volkswagen, Audi, and Škoda brands. From 2011, the plant also started producing the Audi Q3 small SUV.
The development and assembly facilities are some of the newest within the Volkswagen Group, with the ability to produce cars not only for its own brand but also for other Volkswagen Group brands, such as Volkswagen and Audi.
The Barcelona Zona Franca site includes the SEAT Training Centre, the Zona Franca Press Shop factory, producing stamped body parts, and the Barcelona Gearbox del Prat plant, producing gearboxes not only for SEAT but also for other Volkswagen Group marques (VW, Audi, and Škoda); the latter plant was awarded the Volkswagen Excellence Award in 2009 by the Volkswagen Group for high-quality production process and product.
There are several other factories within the Volkswagen Group that produce SEAT models. Future plans include a new research and development centre in the city of Barcelona in the field of environmental and energy efficiency for the entire Volkswagen Group and also the launch of a project on the city's urban mobility, as well as a SEAT museum in the Zona Franca's 'Nave A122' site hosting all production and prototype models ever presented by SEAT together with some special or limited edition vehicles with historical value for the brand and the automotive history of Spain.
The SEAT 600 was the first model exported by SEAT in 1965 to Colombia, and it became the best-selling car in Finland from 1970 to 1973.
During its 60 years, between 1953 to 1965 the firm produced its cars exclusively for the domestic Spanish market. In 1965 in a symbolic move, the company exported some 150 units of its SEAT 600 model destined for Colombia by air freight for the first time. In 1967, 2 years later SEAT reached a deal over the renegotiation of its licence contract with Fiat that allowed the Spanish firm to form an international distribution network for its cars and thereafter start its export operations to more than 12 different countries, entering the export market in 1969.
In Europe, the brand has been launched in almost 40 countries across Northern, Western, Southern, and Eastern Europe. SEAT today also sells its cars in 11 countries in Asia, mostly in the Middle East and the Arabian peninsula, in 16 countries in Americas including North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, and finally Africa, mainly in North Africa.
Some of SEAT’s cars have been sold outside Europe branded as Volkswagens, such as the SEAT Ibiza hatchback, known in South Africa as the Volkswagen Polo Playa, the SEAT Inca panel van as the Volkswagen Caddy, or the SEAT Córdoba, also known as the Volkswagen Polo Classic.
In years to come, SEAT plans to expand into even more markets, the most crucial of them all being China.
Did you know that Spain is the world's eighth-largest manufacturer of automobiles? Its car market now stands among the largest in Europe.
The SEAT 850 Sport, launched in 1967 which was the first coupé model from SEAT.
In 1967, 14 years after producing cars for the domestic market, SEAT's success was signalled by its dominant position in Spain, ahead of its major competitors; Renault,'Citroën, Authi and Barreiros, making SEAT Spain's largest automaker in sales numbers and a wholly localised production.
To be able to produce its own research projects independently, on 16th November 1970, SEAT came in accordance with Fiat to start building separate infrastructures which were aimed at developing new technologies. In 1972, the brand arranged some provisional facilities for the site of the future technical centre in Martorell, and construction work began in 1973.
During the same period, the manufacturer continued to dominate the Spanish automotive market, producing 282,698 cars which were more than 58% of the total Spanish production despite the disruption caused by strikes and a serious flood at the Barcelona plant. However, with just 81 cars per 1000 people, Spanish car sales were seen as ripe for further growth and SEAT faced the prospect of increased competition with other major manufacturers contemplating establishment or expansion of local production facilities in the still heavily protected Spanish car market.
The 1970s were a decade of rising prosperity in Spain which is reflected in the announcement in August 1976 that SEAT would commence local production of the Lancia Beta. Just three years later, Beta production by SEAT commenced at the company's recently acquired Pamplona plant, though only the Coupe and HPE lift-back versions were included. The Spanish cars were fitted with a simplified suspension system and smaller engines than their Italian counterparts to qualify for a lower car tax rate.
In 1977, SEAT's leasing company Liseat was founded, and in 1979, the Gearbox del Prat facility was set up as a specialised plant for the production of gearboxes, gear mechanisms, and differentials in El Prat del Llobregat near Barcelona.
In the early 1980s, extensive discussions concerning funding and control took place between SEAT's major shareholder, the Spanish government, and Fiat Automobiles. SEAT needed major capital investment which Fiat was not prepared to contribute to, partially due to the oil crisis of the 1970s and also due to the uncertainty for Fiat's interests following the end of a protectionist policy against GM in Spain. In 1982 it was an end to the relationship with Fiat after nearly 30 years, a rather surprising decision in spite of the favourable perspectives for the Spanish economy, with Spain being in the anteroom of the European Economic Community since 1977.
The end with the Italian firm was marked by a change in SEAT's logo in 1982, and the first car under the new SEAT logo without Fiat involvement appeared in the same year; the SEAT Ronda, styled by Rayton Fissore in collaboration with the technical centre in Martorell.
The SEAT Ibiza Mk1 was launched in 1984 and was the first model developed by SEAT as an independent company, together with Porsche and Karmann.
In 1982, Dr Carl Horst Hahn, the chairman of the Volkswagen Group examined the opportunity of approaching SEAT after Fiat's withdrawal to enhance his plan to expand the Volkswagen Group's operations out of Germany and turning the German group into a global force. However, the Spanish authorities had already started talks with other foreign firms, such as Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi who wanted to choose a strong partner for SEAT. Hahn's interest soon resulted in industrial and commercial cooperation, with a licensing agreement confirmed with SEAT on 30th September 1982 for the production of the Volkswagen Passat-Santana and Polo-Derby models in SEAT's Zona Franca and Landaben factories in Spain.
Eventually, a partnership agreement was signed on 16th June 1983 between the two parties being represented by the president of SEAT (Juan Miguel Antoñanzas) and Carl Hahn on behalf of the Volkswagenwerk AG. At this time SEAT also gained the rights to distribute Volkswagens in Spain.
SEAT launched its new Ibiza, a Giugiaro-styled hatchback, which made use of System Porsche engines and also featured underpinnings from the Fiat Ritmo/Strada in 1984. It also formed the basis of the Malaga, a four-door family saloon. SEAT then began to expand into markets beyond Spain's borders, including the United Kingdom where it began selling cars in the autumn of 1985.
On 18th June 1986 after a purchase of the 51% majority non-stake of SEAT, followed by the increase of its share up to 75% on 23rd December, the Volkswagen Group became the major shareholder of SEAT. Subsequently, on 18th December 1990, the Volkswagen Group acquired 99.99% ownership of the company, thus making SEAT the first non-German wholly-owned subsidiary of the group.
SEAT only made a profit 2 years after Volkswagen bought a majority of its stock but they provided a low-cost manufacturing outlet for other VW models, contributing to around 15% of the VW group's total output in 1989. This gave the Volkswagen Group an opportunity to enter the relatively unexploited Spanish market under the SEAT, VW, and Audi names.
The SEAT Toledo Mk1 launched in 1991 and was the first model fully developed under Volkswagen Group's ownership.
The centralisation of the management, design, research, and production facilities localized around the plant site was meant to serve the aim of optimising the development of new models. On 22nd February 1993, King Juan Carlos of Spain and the newly elected chairman of the Volkswagen Group Dr. Ferdinand Piëch inaugurated the Martorell plant, one of the most modern and efficient car plants in Europe using the just-in-time process with its suppliers' site located only 2.5 km away.
The first cars that rolled out of the Martorell plant lines were the SEAT Ibiza Mk2 and its saloon version, the SEAT Córdoba Mk1. The new Ibiza was a huge success for SEAT, greatly expanding its market share, particularly on export markets.
The original planning in October 1993 to close the emblematic Zona Franca assembly plant as soon as the production of vehicles could be transferred to the more efficient Martorell plant was overturned after an arrangement between the Spanish authorities and the Volkswagen Group. The Zona Franca site would continue its operations but would be gradually turned into a site with an auxiliary role in the production process (foundry, press shop, etc.). Meanwhile, on 23rd December 1993, the 'Fabrica Navarra de Automóviles, S.A. was founded as a new company to hold the management of the Landaben factory, separating any ties to SEAT in production matters. Its shares were transferred to Volkswagen in June 1994 over which, however, SEAT would regain ownership four years later in 1998.
In 1994, the design centre in Sitges located in the Spanish coastal town south of Barcelona and the suppliers' park in Zona Franca was also inaugurated, and in the winter of the same year, SEAT's financing and leasing companies (Fiseat and Liseat) were sold to Volkswagen Financial Services AG. During 1994, SEAT, in collaboration with Suzuki, manufactured a five-door prototype model of a city car, internally named as Rosé, aiming to replace with it the Marbella in its range, but this model never made it through to production.
The first time a SEAT model was manufactured out of Spain was in 1996, with the production of the SEAT Alhambra Mk1 in the Palmela AutoEuropa plant in Portugal. Also in January 1997, a non-Spanish descendant, the Belgian Pierre-Alain de Smedt, was appointed SEAT's chairman for the first time. The SEAT Arosa, a three-door city hatchback, was launched in 1997, effectively replacing the Marbella, SEAT's version of the Fiat Panda, which had been in production since the early 1980s.
On April 7, 1998, the Zona Franca plant marked the end in the production lifecycle of the Marbella model, signalling a historical moment for SEAT with the end of vehicle production in SEAT's oldest factory which had opened in 1953. It also signalled the demise of SEAT's last Fiat-based model.
In March 1999 at the Geneva Motor Show, SEAT presented a modern and stylised logo which was more rounded compared to the last one which used the silver colour on a red background, instead of the previous blue, symbolising respectively the rational and the emotional. This came shortly after the launch of the second-generation Toledo, and shortly before the launch of the Toledo-based Leon hatchback.
The "auto emoción" slogan was presented in September 2000, reflecting the brand's new youthful and sporty corporate identity, while SEAT Sport, apart from its motorsport activities, would undertake the responsibility of developing SEAT's high-performance vehicles.
On 1st July 2000, Dr Bernd Peter Pischetsrieder, the former CEO of BMW, was appointed to head SEAT. In the spring of 2002, as Pischetsrieder was commissioned to chair the entire Volkswagen Group, he gave way to his German compatriot Andreas Schleef on 7th March 2002.
From 2002 to 2007, SEAT formed part of the Audi Brand Group, the Volkswagen Group's automotive subdivision consisted of Audi, SEAT and Lamborghini, that was focused on more sporty values, with the marque's product vehicles and performance being under the responsibility of the Audi brand.
In 2006, the new SEAT corporate head office was opened in Martorell and the Martorell SEAT Design Centre superseded the Volkswagen Group Design Centre Europe at Sitges which previously hosted the design facility jointly owned by SEAT, Volkswagen, and Audi. On 23rd February 2006, an agreement over the transfer of the installations of the latter to the City of Sitges was closed, with the Martorell's Design Centre official opening eventually taking place on 30th December 2007.
On 12th January 2007, the inauguration of the building of the SEAT Service Centre next to the southern entrance of the Martorell factory was held, the department focusing on technical support, after-sales and marketing purposes, and covering the feedback and the relationship of the brand with the customers and its worldwide network. In January 2007, operation of the SEAT Prototypes Centre of Development located in the heart of the Martorell industrial complex began, a facility inaugurated on 16th July 2007, bringing together activities related to the virtual and physical pre-production processes of new models (prototyping, modelling, pilot product development, and series analysis). This shortened development times for prototypes and pre-production vehicles, as well as saving costs with the use of modern technologies such as virtual simulation.
SEAT's involvement in motorsports began in the 1970s with the brand's contribution to the national formula races in Spain, and by the end of the same decade, the start of its involvement in rallies. In 1971, the Special Vehicles department was formed with the mission to enforce the brand's participation in rally championships, resulting in 11 titles between 1979 and 1983. In 1985 SEAT Sport was founded as a separate motorsport division as, since the Volkswagen Group takeover in 1986, SEAT had been increasing its presence in the motorsport world. This was mainly down to VW's plan on focusing the SEAT brand as sporty to appeal particularly to the younger generation of drivers. The results of this effort have been SEAT's most prestigious titles in FIA championships, three conquests with the SEAT Ibiza Kit-Car in the FIA 2L World Rally Championship (WRC) (1996, 1997, 1998), and two times with the SEAT León in the FIA World Touring Car Championship) (2008, 2009).
SEAT's first serious attempt at a World Rally Championship (WRC) was in the 1977 season when SEAT took part with its SEAT 1430/124D Especial 1800 race car. In its debut rallying event at the Montecarlo Rally, the SEAT team finished in the third and fourth places with the official 1430-1800 cars being driven by Antonio Zanini and Salvador Cañellas. In recent years, the consignment was placed on the small SEAT Ibiza, a 1.6-L, normally aspirated, a front-wheel-drive car with its roots in the Volkswagen Polo. The Ibiza allowed the company to further evolve its rallying experience and was officially engaged in some European national championships. The years went by until a 2-L version of the Ibiza was homologated as a kit car, and extra-wide tracks, larger wheels, brakes, etc., were fitted to it as the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) kit-car regulations allow. With these attributes, the car succeeded three times the 2-L World Champion ('96, '97, '98), proving its maker had accumulated enough experience, and budget, to take a chance at the reign category, the World Rally Car class of rallying cars.
Daniel Solà (with the SEAT Córdoba WRC) at the Rallye de tierra de Cangas del Narcea
SEATs three conquests of the FIA 2L WRC title, and the sport's popularity in Spain, probably convinced Volkswagen Group management to go further and allow the SEAT Sport department a chance to reach its goal in the top class WRC category. This situation came to an end in September 2000, when the company's German upper management revoked its decision-forcing SEAT Sport to retire from the World Rally Championship.
SEAT’s project to build a WRC-spec car was officially announced during the 1997 San Remo rally. It was in 1998 that the first evolution of the 'SEAT Córdoba WRC' car was presented at the Porto Motor Show and then first enrolled by the company to compete at the highest level of WRC racing. The Córdoba was based on the family saloon of the same name but was, naturally, a WRC class car equipped with an inline-four turbocharged petrol engine, permanent four-wheel drive, and active differentials involved in its transmission.
The 'Córdoba WRC' made its debut at the 1998 Rally of Finland, while a further development on the race car was incarnated on the 'SEAT Córdoba WRC E2' car which was presented at the Barcelona Motor Show in 1999. However, the short wheelbase and high-mounted engine (compared to its rivals) worked against the Córdoba, and results weren't top competing. Despite hiring ex-WRC champion Didier Auriol, and a new evolution of the car i.e. the 'SEAT Córdoba WRC E3', SEAT pulled out of international rallying at the end of 2000.
In 2002, SEAT announced a one-make championship for the new SEAT León Cupra R, the SEAT León Supercopa.
In 2004, SEAT with Ray Mallock Ltd. (RML) entered the British Touring Car Championship, running two SEAT Toledo Cupra for former-BTCC Champion Jason Plato, and 2003 León UK Champion, Rob Huff. In 2005, Huff left to join Chevrolet (run by RML in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC)), and was replaced by 2004 Leon Champion James Pickford, and Luke Hines as SEAT expanded to three cars, now run by Northern South. 2006 saw Toledo replaced by the new León, and Darren Turner joined the team with James Thompson when his WTCC commitments allowed. 2007 was SEAT's best year in BTCC, as Plato was locked in a season-long battle with Fabrizio Giovanardi, which came down to the final race of the season, but just missed out on the title.
Since 2005, SEAT has also competed in the World Touring Car Championship, with its first best season being 2007, where a failed water pump robbed Yvan Muller of certain victory at the final meeting in Macau. SEAT became the first team to run a TDI in the WTCC and this gave them a dominant 2008 World Touring Car Championship season, with Yvan Muller winning the drivers championship. French racing team Oreca cooperates with the WTCC team. SEAT's UK team followed suit in the 2008 BTCC. The BTCC team was sponsored by the Holiday Inn.
In 2007, SEAT with the León Mk2 TDI at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben in Germany became the first manufacturer to win a round of the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) series in a diesel car, only a month after announcing it will enter the FIA World Touring Car Championship with the León TDI. SEAT's success with the León TDI was continued and resulted in winning consecutively 2008 World Touring Car Championship and 2009 World Touring Car Championship both titles (for drivers' as well as for manufacturers').
In September 2008, SEAT UK announced that it was to withdraw from all motorsport activity in the UK at the end of the season. The SEAT Cupra Championship and the SEAT BTCC campaign are to end at Brands Hatch on 21st September. BTCC drivers Jason Plato and Darren Turner have been left without drives for 2009 but Plato will drive for Silverline Chevrolet.
At the opening of the 2009 WTCC, SEAT placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in both races in Brazil. At the second meeting of the WTCC (in Mexico), the SEAT team placed 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th and 11th in the first race. The second race they placed 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 8th. While SEAT may have withdrawn from the BTCC, they were showing impressive results in the WTCC.
The SEAT Cupra GT in the Spanish GT championship for the SunRED racing team.
In 2003 the SEAT Sport division presented at the Barcelona Motor Show first as a concept car and later the final version of the SEAT Cupra GT race car, which was produced in limited series on customer demand addressed to experienced individuals and racing teams willing to take part in race events.
The Cupra GT was chosen as a GT race car from racing teams, like the Sunred Engineering (SunRED) team, making its debut in 2004 in the Spanish GT Championship and took part in several Grand tourer circuits not only in Spain but also run in tracks abroad like those of Monza and Magny-Cours.
In 1970 SEAT set up the 'Fórmula Nacional' series in Spain, a year later to be known as Formula 1430. The single-seater formula cars, which took part driven by young Spanish drivers, were equipped under support from SEAT with engines of the 1430 model and 6700 gearboxes. The first race of the 'Fórmula Nacional' series took place at the Jarama circuit in Madrid.
Since the early 1990s, SEAT has developed and presented several prototypes with either fully electric or hybrid powertrain, including the SEAT Toledo Mk1 electric model (1992), the SEAT Ibiza Mk2 electric car (1993), the SEAT Inca electric van (1995), the SEAT León Mk2 Twin drive (2009), the SEAT IBE concept (2010) and the SEAT IBX concept SUV (2011) hybrid cars.
Published: Saturday 18th January 2020