In just four years, the Spanish brand Cupra has written an unprecedented success story. And that might just be the beginning.
Four years is actually no age for one automobile brand. Established brands are sometimes more than 100 years old. It's all the more amazing.
Stand alone brand
Never heard? Cupra comes from Cup Racing and once served as a designation for Seat's sportiest and most powerful models. But four years ago the tide turned. Seat strategists decided to make the Cupra name its own brand. Because more and more customers chose the sportier version when ordering a new Seat. At times, the proportion was more than 20 percent. Something like that gives courage.
Nevertheless, some industry experts lowered their thumbs and did not believe in the Spanish adventure. But Seat was determined to position Cupra as a young, dynamic brand, sporty, cheeky, passionate and a bit extroverted, but without being too pushy. Today we know that the concept worked, completely. It is particularly popular with young people, who are on average ten years younger than comparable brands. The models drive in sensational conquest values and even pick up many customers from premium brands. It was quickly said that I drive a Cupra, not: I drive a Seat.
No other automobile brand has had similarly good growth rates in recent years. In 2021, Cupra was able to more than double sales in Germany (+ 105 percent). January and February brought another 60 percent growth. Dealers don't know how to meet the delivery times, the order books are jam-packed. Last year they cracked the 50 percent threshold, which means they sold as many models as the parent brand Seat. For this year, Bernhard Bauer, Managing Director of SEAT Germany, predicts that it could easily be 60 to 70 percent.
The Formentor brought the greatest boost. The sleek SUV is the first independent Cupra model - meaning there is no parallel model at Seat - and has not only become the brand's bestseller, but also the company's best-selling model. The Seat Leon held this position for many years. Before that it was the Ibiza. That's not all, the Formentor can claim even more superlatives. It is number one among leasing vehicles in Germany and has the highest proportion of private buyers in its segment.
In terms of performance, too, the Formentor is the spearhead. In the VZ5 variant, the five-cylinder heart of Audi beats under the hood, the 2,5-liter turbo with 287 kW/390 hp and makes the SUV a top athlete. The Formentor VZ5 is limited to 7.000 units, including 999 units of the VZ5 Taiga, a noble edition. If that's not enough for you, you should knock on Abt's door. The Kempten-based tuning company, which is very involved in Formula E, among other things, supplies a kit that boosts the Formentor to a level of 331 kW, i.e. 450 hp.
The five-cylinder sends 530 Newton meters of torque to the all-wheel drive system and allows the Formentor to accelerate to 3,9 km/h in 100 seconds. The factory specifies a top speed of 270 km/h. Until recently, these were the best Porsche values.
The path to electromobility also shows the importance of Cupra in the company. Not Seat, but Cupra is being expanded into an e-brand. The first study on this was once called the Seat el Born, and it became the Cupra Born in the series. The counterpart to the VW ID.3 has been on the market since the end of last year and has a treat to offer. The Cupra Born is the only model in VW's electric strategy to date that is available as a so-called e-boost variant. The version trimmed for more sportiness now delivers 150 kW/204 hp instead of 3 kW/170 (as with the ID.231).
The largest battery (77 kWh) of the MEB architecture is in the floor and enables a range of up to 548 kilometers.
"cupra to the power of 2"
What's next for Cupra? If you believe the words of brand boss Wayne Griffith, there are ambitious plans. Griffith calls it "Cupra to the power of 2", meaning: Everything should be doubled, if possible before the end of this year: the number of models, sales and sales volume. In 2021, Cupra sold almost 80.000 vehicles across Europe. The goal for this year is 160.000 units. The focus is on a market share of three to five percent. And this, although there will be no new models in 2022 or 2023. Which does not grieve the dealers. On the contrary, they have enough to do anyway to work off the huge mountain of orders.
ID. 5 as Cupra
Cupra will only come with another model, the Tavascan, in 2024. The coupe-like mid-range SUV with the so-called “shark nose” has already been shown as a study. The production version will look almost exactly the same, which, like the sister model VW ID.5, is based on the MEB architecture and will have all-wheel drive and at least 300 hp in the top version.
Finally, in 2025, Cupra will bring a small electric city car. The Urban Rebel concept car gave a preview of the design last September. Cupra was even given development responsibility for the small MEB architecture, called MEB Entry, within the Volkswagen Group. The corresponding derivatives from VW, Skoda and Seat are also to be built in Martorell, Spain, the home of Cupra. A young automobile brand can hardly be given more honor.