SEAT has finally put its Ateca SUV on UK sale after what has appeared to be one of the longest pre-launch build-ups in the market.
The launch of the car has been dubbed “the start of a new era for the brand” by company head Luca de Meo.
The Ateca is SEAT’s first full-blown SUV, at long last giving the Spanish brand a foothold in the most vibrant sector of the industry. From selling cars in 52 per cent of the market, The Ateca and cars to follow it will increase SEAT’s access to more than three quarters of potential UK car buyers.
Widening its influence is vital to the brand – after six years of consistent growth SEAT saw a dip in its UK registrations in 2015, down almost 11 per cent to 47,654 from 53,512 in 2014. According to SEAT personnel the slide was expected due to what was then a static product range.
Globally SEAT is progressing well – a third consecutive rise in sales in 2015 saw the brand break the 400,000 cars barrier, representing 25 per cent growth since 2012. It was also able to announce a profit of €6m, something that is not common in SEAT accounts.
The Ateca, however, is regarded as the momentum changer. While SEAT UK expects to sell “broadly the same amount” of cars this year, it is confidently predicting a move back to significant growth in 2017. The Ateca will turn the company from effectively a two to a three-car brand.
SEAT’s UK director Richard Harrison describes the car as the “biggest product firework” the brand has ever seen, and alongside it heavy investment is going into the brand’s image. Another change to SEAT’s marketing slogan sees the brand adopting “Created in Barcelona” described by Harrison as an indication that it makes “beautiful, cosmopolitan, design-led cars, a brand on the move.”
Early evidence suggests that SEAT’s confidence is not misplaced. The pre-launch website for the Ateca has seen a great deal of activity before any of the cars arrived in the UK. “Interest in the car has been the highest we’ve ever seen,” says head of sales Steve Catlin. “We’ve been overwhelmed with the number of visitors to our website.”
SEAT never publicly predicts the amount of each individual model it will sell, but is confidently stating that in the case of the Ateca demand will exceed supply; “We have an order bank,” one company insider comments, with a strong hint that this too SEAT is not used to.
And the move of SEAT into the SUV sector will accelerate next year when the Ateca gains a sister, the brand having recently confirmed that a second SUV, currently named the A Zero Cross, will go into production. It will launch in 2017, a year that will also see SEAT refresh the Leon family hatch and launch an all-new generation of the Ibiza supermini.
Ateca prices start at £17,990 and SEAT sees the car’s key competitors as the Renault Kadjar, Ford Kuga and Kia Sportage.
SEAT Ateca First Drive – coming shortly on The Car Expert