To say it’s a changeable time in the car industry is a bit like saying the Himalayas are quite hilly. Carmakers aren’t just grappling with the era-ending issues of electric and autonomous technology, but some other fairly juicy questions like whether people will even want to own cars at all.
On the face of it then, not the obvious time to launch a new brand. Although there are, of course, plenty who see all this disruption as opportunity. Pininfarina are about to rollout a £2m all-electric hypercar; Volvo’s electric performance brand Polestar releases two cars this year; and now Cupra, which officially launched out of Seat Group in January 2018. All three are anticipating gaps in the new order that aren’t currently being served.
im电竞官网-“A lot of people said we were crazy,” says CEO Wayne Griffiths, from the brand’s purpose-built, £5m HQ, the “Cupra Garage”, in Martorell, just outside Barcelona; an office-cum-events space that could be mistaken for an offshoot of Soho House. “We felt the potential was there to do something nobody else was.”
im电竞官网-This precise point of difference, he says, will emerge properly in the year ahead. So far since launching, the two Cupra models have been punched-up and well-specced versions of existing Seat models, the Seat Leon Cupra, a very capable hot hatch, and the Cupra Ateca, a properly fast, sporty and well-kitted-out 310bhp SUV. Cupra after all is a portmanteau of “Cup” and “Racing”, and has given its name to peppy versions of Seat models since 1996.
im电竞官网-Sportiness is part of the story but Griffiths, a dress-down CEO in ripped jeans and white trainers who speaks in an Anglo-German accent forged from a long career in the car business, is quick to emphasise this kind of performance will become more common given the acceleration of electric cars across the board. Which means the brand needs to “stand on more than one leg”. The other leg? Judging by the two coming models on show in the Cupra Garage, it’s with design that Cupra is hoping to make its mark.
im电竞官网-Its first “pure” model, the Formentor, a muscular SUV with coupé looks, arrives in the second half of the year. It’s then hoped the concept Tavascan, a stunning, all-electric crossover, will be signed off as a production car. If it happens, it should offer something different in an over-crowded field. If it doesn’t, it should at least be a design marker for how future Cupras will look.
On the shelves beside the car, an electric scooter, some wedge-soled trainers and a rather fetching table lamp are among the various collaborations the design studio has been working on. Together with memorabilia from FC Barcelona, for whom Cupra is the official car partner, it sheds some light on the type of brand Cupra are striving to become in a short space of time.
“I think people being loyal to their brands will change with electrification but also with the generation of customers that are coming,” says Griffiths. He cites fashion label Supremim电竞官网-e as an example of how fast brands can grow and sees “people with less to prove, who don’t need traditional, prestigious premium symbols” as a characteristic of those who will come on board: people looking for an alternative to the usual.
im电竞官网-For all the analysis, it’s the cars themselves that will need to do the talking. Not literally, of course, although that probably won’t be far off either. “You have to have real, authentic products,” says Griffiths. “It can’t just be about branding, it can’t just be about nice colours and trims. It has to be more than that.”
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