“Obras son amores y no buenas razones”
This is a famous Spanish quote that translates to “Actions speak louder than words”.
Yes, we at AutoGuru are on yet another trip, this time to the southwestern part of Europe and the largest country in southern Europe, i.e., Spain.
The country is very famous for its beautiful Mediterranean beaches, Football, La Tomatina & the famous Bull fight.
We are here to take you on a tour of Spain’s sole active mass-production capable brand, i.e., SEAT or Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo.
In May 1950, SEAT was established by INI, the Instituto Nacional de Industria, a state-owned industrial holding firm as an abbreviated form of Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Spain had a very small car market, particularly when benchmarked against the other European unions. There was only limited production of cars, mostly consisted of cars from the luxury segment.
As the country had a lack of expertise in automotive mass-production development, it was important to find foreign partner experienced partner who could support them in selling and development of cars. Hence, in 1948 they found their alliance-partner in form of the Italian manufacturer, FIAT.
Fiat dominated the car market in Italy under 12 horsepower segments, which initially supposed to be Spain's target market segment.
In 1953, the SEAT Barcelona production facility opened its door with their first product in the form of a four-door saloon, i.e., the SEAT 1400.
By the year 1956, they were producing almost 10,000 vehicles yearly and were ready to launch their own engineered product in the form of the SEAT 600, in the year 1957. It went on to become a status symbol of the Spanish mobility and freedom.
The 1970s was equally good for the SEAT-Fiat alliance and this was marked by the introduction of the 1976 SEAT Lancia Beta, in different body styles like the Coupe and HPE rise. Interestingly, simpler suspension and smaller engines were used in the SEAT cars than their Italian counterparts, in order to avail the lower car tax rate that was applicable.
As the 1980s set in, the world was engulfed by a global oil crisis and during which, SEAT required huge amount of investments to setup a bigger manufacturing facility as well as for better tech and R&D support. Fiat was not in a condition to provide such huge investment and so wasn’t the Spanish government. All the situations led to the breakup of SEAT-Fiat alliance in 1982.
In 1982, just after Fiat and SEAT parted out their ways, Dr. Carl Horst Hahn, who had just taken the position as chairman of Volkswagenwerk AG (Volkswagen Group), investigated the prospect and approached SEAT as a part of his plan to extend the Volkswagen Group's reach outside Germany and to turn the German group into a global power.
SEAT chose the Volkswagen group and entered in a partnership with them in 1982 to produce the Volkswagen Passat-Santana and the Polo-Derby models in Spain. This ended the production of the SEAT Panda in Landaben as that assembly line was needed to build the Polo.
On 18 June 1986, after the acquisition of SEAT's 51% non-participatory majority stake, followed by another buyout and increase of stake of up to 75% in December, the Volkswagen Group became the largest shareholder of SEAT.
On 18 December 1990, the Volkswagen Group purchased 99.9% of the company, making SEAT the first wholly-owned non-German subsidiary of the group. Fulling Hahn's hopes and expectations, SEAT not only made a profit 2 years after Volkswagen acquired the majority stake, but also acted as a low-cost manufacturing outlet for other VW group products, which consisted of 15.2% of the overall production of the VW group in 1989.
After VW group acquired SEAT, there was no looking back. They started launching products after products which prospered the automotive scenario of Spain and even made the manufacturer known globally under the umbrella of VW group. The first SEAT model to be made outside of Spain was the SEAT Alhambra Mk1, which was made in Portugal in the year 1996.
SEAT has also been actively involved in the world of Motorsports. They were a regular participant in Rallying till the year 2000. They also took part in Touring Car championship regularly, wherein they have tasted success well enough.
Today, SEAT group is under the subsidiary of Audi AG, which is eventually under the Volkswagen mark as per the restructured corporate plan. It mostly uses the modular VW platforms as well as engines in their products. Most of the SEAT products are engineered at their dedicated in-house Technical Design centre at their Martorell central facility. In fact, it even helps the VW subsidiaries in designing as well as production area.
Currently, SEAT is sold in more than 75 countries across the globe and it is the only major Spanish manufacturer with the ability to developed and engineer its own cars, if need be.
“Bien está lo que bien acaba” – All’s well that ends well!Grazia and hope to meet you soon as we embark on our next journey. Till then, keep healthy and stay safe!