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Seat shies away from hot Cupra crossovers

Luca de Meo says time isn’t right to put hot hatch power into upcoming softroaders

Cupra, Seat’s line of fast Ibizas and now Nürburgring-crushing Leons, has its strongest following in the UK, according to new president Luca de Meo. Brits also have an insatiable appetite (along with the rest of Europe) for small, trendy crossovers – so is now the perfect time to strike with a pair of fast, raucous Cupra crossovers? Absolutely not, according to de Meo.

“Right now, we just can’t afford the luxury of investing in a niche”, he told TG at the Geneva Motor Show. “We have to concentrate elsewhere. Cupra has a great following – it is a great story, for us – but we need to continue that story by building on the core models.” A process gathering pace, given we’ve just driven the latest fast Leon with yet more power coursing through its front wheels…

So, you won’t be finding a 276bhp 2.0-litre Leon Cupra engine under the bonnet of Seat’s crucial new Ateca SUV any time soon. And nor, we now know for sure, will next year’s smaller, lighter, Nissan Juke-fighting crossover get to wear a pair of racing boots. De Meo goes so far as to say that if he could snap his fingers and magic Seat into another new segment, he’d choose another, larger SUV to add to his range – not a sports coupe, or a roadster. Tall cars are just too popular to ignore right now. “We want a 4-5 per cent segment share in the SUV market”, says de Meo. “The way I see it, if you have five per cent, you exist. If you have 10 per cent, you’re getting onto the shopping list, and at 20 per cent, you’re top of my shopping list.”

Does this SUV onslaught mean the death of the wagon? “No, the station wagon is safe, it may even mount a comeback” he said. “It won’t ever be replaced by the SUV because it does not do as many retail sales; it appeals more to fleets. While the station wagon has been commoditized, an SUV still commands a premium price. Plus they have a very high customer loyalty rate, while SUVs get a high conquest rate.”

So, use the SUVs to pinch sales from rivals, and keep the wagons for the old faithful. And, thanks to his promise that Cupra will ‘continue its story’, the future’s rather bright for more fast family estates from VW’s Spanish cousin.

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