As Volkswagen Group’s Cupra brand aims for annual 500,000 vehicle sales globally, the marque has begun market research for a potential entry into the United States.
Volkswagen describes its Cupra brand as “sporty and provocative, passionate and sexy: the brand proves that electric cars don’t have to be boring and functional.”
Still, you might wonder, what exactly what is a Cupra?
Cupra has its roots in Spanish automaker SEAT S.A.
From its founding in 1950, Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, or SEAT, is Spain’s most-popular automaker. In 1986, the Spanish government sold SEAT to the Volkswagen Group, which still owns it today.
Cupra was SEAT’s performance badge, much like Mercedes-Benz AMG or BMW M. Its name is a blending of the words “Cup Racing,” debuting in 1996 on the SEAT Ibiza GTI Cupra Sport 16V. It remained a SEAT trim level through to the 2018 Leon Cupra R ST. Since then, Cupra has been its own marque. Initially concentrating on combustion-powered rallying and race cars, but it has since pivoted to the expanding electric vehicle (EV) market.
Cupra now sells its vehicles in Mexico and Australia, and will soon expand to Colombia and Chile. Entry into the North American market is currently being studied by Cupra, and early results look encouraging.
“We are at the start of a crucial year in SEAT S.A.’s history. We know the future is electric and we have a clear vision and motivated team determined to make this transition,” said Wayne Griffiths, CEO of SEAT S.A. “We committed to invest 10 billion euros in transforming Spain into a European hub for the electric vehicle.”
What’s to come
Cupra’s current line-up includes the Leon hatchback, the Formentor crossover, the Ateca SUV and the Born, a full-electric hatchback. All are compact crossovers.
The company’s product offensive is slated to begin with the introduction of the 2024 Cupra Tavascan, an all-electric compact SUV with a 77kWh lithium-ion battery pack, dual motors, 225 kWh of power and all-wheel drive. It is expected to be revealed in Berlin next month and will be manufactured in China at a factory owned by a Volkswagen joint venture in Anhui.
It will be followed by the midsize 2024 Cupra Terramar PHEV crossover with 62 miles (100 km) of all-electric range. It will also be sold as a conventional internal combustion engine model and will be produced alongside the Audi Q3 Sportback on which it is based at the VW Group’s factory in Gyor, Hungary.
Cupra also plans to introduce the 2025 UrbanRebel, built using Volkswagen’s MEB small platform with up to 273 miles (440 km) of range and a o-62 mph time of 6.9 seconds. Redesigned renditions of the Cupra Leon, Formentor, and Born will follow after that.
Which models will make it stateside are not known.
Cupra’s popularity is growing
Cupra’s market share at the end of February was 1.2%, up 60% from 2022. But the automaker is looking to capture a 3% to 4% European market share before tackling the U.S. market. The company also knows it has to develop models that suit North American buyer tastes, aka larger vehicles.
SEAT is committing 3 billion euros to transform its Martorelli plant, as the automaker intends to manufacture 3 million BEVs at both its Martorelli and Pamplona facilities by 2030.
Certainly you’ll be hearing more from Cupra, as it plans to become one of the Top 100 Best Global Brands by 2030.
But the sporty marque won’t be alone in its pursuit of the enthusiast-minded American SUV buyer. Alfa Romeo, which is about to unveil the compact Tonale SUV, will introduce a larger SUV by 2028. And Renault is planning a launch of its Alpine brand by 2028 with two battery-electric SUV models.