How many times had I written that Volkswagen’s sicklish SEAT will come to China? I had to peruse Google to find out. For more than two years, SEAT’s impending arrival in the Middle Kingdom had been floated, and then, like clockwork, the denials followed. So with a good deal of “yeah sure, it has been tried before” do we read the story in Autocar that “the Spanish marque will exhibit for the first time at next month’s Shanghai Motor Show and expects to be selling cars in China from early in 2012.”
Supposedly, “the announcement was made unwittingly in response to a question from the audience at the annual Volkswagen media and investor conference.”
Unwittingly, SEAT chief James Muir told Autocar that the time is right to enter China. “We are appealing to a new generation of Chinese customers, young, design-orientated people buying the cars themselves [rather than with their parents’ support] who are looking for cars that express their personality.”
Interesting market segmentation. Let’s see how they’ll bring that message across.
Also supposedly, “Seat will start in China with the high-specification Cupra performance versions of the Ibiza and Leon made in the factory at Martorell, near Barcelona.” Yes, they will import them. Muir says that “there is a continuing market in China for imported cars. Audi and other luxury brands have been very successful.” True, for high end ones. Even the A6 is Made in China.
If you ask me (but nobody will, I’m sure), the Chinese market hasn‘t been waiting for imported (=expensive) rebadged Polos (Ibiza) and Golfs (Leon) that have been hopped up as club racers (Cupra = expensive).
If a Chinese spends money for an import, he wants brand cachet. SEAT is unknown in China and might be mistaken for a chair.