Spanish brand set for NZ
New Zealand Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi importer European Motor Distributors (EMD) will add the Spanish Seat brand to its portfolio in the second quarter of 2017.
Seat, formed in 1950, has been part of VW Group since the 1980s and is often perceived as the sporty foil to the more practical Skoda brand.
Seat will be launched in NZ with the new Ateca SUV and Leon five-door hatchback.
Ateca taps into the VW Group platform strategy, with the same MQB underpinnings as the Tiguan and forthcoming Skoda Kodiaq.
Is there room for yet another MQB model in such a small market? Newly appointed Seat NZ general manager James Yates says yes: ‘‘Without Ateca we probably wouldn’t have considered it, but that’s the segment that’s going gangbusters.’’
While Seat has flirted with crossover and genre-bending vehicles in the past, Ateca is actually its first attempt at a conventional SUV.
Medium SUVs occupy the single-largest market segment in NZ.
Ateca is slightly shorter than Tiguan and Kodiaq, so expect pricing equivalent to Skoda as EMD attempts to establish this new brand. The model has been praised by critics overseas for its sporty driving dynamics compared with sister VW Group models, while noting that it’s also less practical.
Seat will also have a hero model in NZ in the form of the Leon hatchback, which will be offered in hot-hatch guise with over 200kW from its turbocharged engine. If you want the slightly naughty version of a Golf GTi, this could be the car for you.
Other models will follow, but it’ll be a gentle roll-out for Seat in NZ, with just one Auckland sales and service centre planned at launch.
It’s not the first appearance of Seat in NZ under EMD auspices. A one-off shipment of 120 Cordobas were sold here in 2001. The cars were surplus stock from Australia but well-received by critics.
Seat sold just over 400,000 cars in 2015, so it’s less than half the size of Skoda and has not thus far been strong on exports outside Europe. However, the addition of Ateca is expected to boost global numbers considerably.
Hot hatches have been a Seat thing for decades. Kiwispec Leon five-door will boast over 200kW.