SEAT celebrates 60 years

Established 9 May 1950 Eventful history from licensee to hi-tech manufacturer Fresh model line-up with distinctive character An exciting future with a clear strategy SEAT is celebrating its birthday -- it's turning 60! The "Sociedad Española de...

Established 9 May 1950
Eventful history from licensee to hi-tech manufacturer
Fresh model line-up with distinctive character
An exciting future with a clear strategy

SEAT is celebrating its birthday -- it's turning 60! The "Sociedad Española de Automoviles de Turismo, S.A." may have been established on 9 May 1950, but SEAT is far from being a pensioner -- after an incredibly eventful history, the Spanish car maker now boasts a distinctive character and a clear strategy, with a dynamic model line-up, state-of-the-art technology and exciting design. And the Technical Centre in Martorell is also host to intensive work on the future -- the SEAT IBE concept car delivers a first impression of how exciting the Spanish cars will be in the age of electro-mobility.

"SEAT is heading on a clear course towards the next phase of its development. With the introduction of the Ibiza ST and the new Alhambra, in autumn, the SEAT product line-up is the newest in its history," says James Muir, President of SEAT, S.A. "We fulfil a broad spectrum of customer desires, yet always deliver automobiles with unique character. Every SEAT is unmistakeable in its design, is incredibly sporty and offers innovative technology at outstanding value-for-money. The most important thing, however, is our highly motivated teams in design, development and production."

First-class competence and a modern model line-up

60 years after it was founded on 9 May 1950, the company is better prepared for the future than ever. The workforce at its headquarters in Barcelona stands at 11,000, with around 1,300 people working at the Technical Centre, the brand's research and development centre. The central production site is the Martorell plant, which is one of the most advanced in Europe, with its highly developed logistics systems and flexible production processes. Around 2,000 cars are built there every day. Since 1953, SEAT has produced more than 16 million vehicles, with 2009 contributing a volume of 337,000 new units. Two thirds of production is exported, with the majority going to the European market. Globally, SEAT has more than 3,000 sales and service outlets in a total of 72 countries.

With the introduction of the new Alhambra MPV in autumn, SEAT will have overhauled its entire model line-up. It encompasses five model ranges - the Ibiza, Leon, Altea, Exeo and Alhambra -- with a wide array of body styles and engine variants. The sporting highlights are represented by the powerful FR and CUPRA versions. SEAT is just as successful when it comes to efficiency technologies -- the ECOMOTIVE variants are among the most frugal in their class. SEAT meets a broad spectrum of customer wishes, from 265 hp/195 kW in the Leon CUPRA R to CO2 emissions of only 98 grams/km in the Ibiza ECOMOTIVE.

New models for the future

The new Alhambra is the newest model in the SEAT line-up. The innovative versatility of the completely redesigned Spanish Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) is as perfectly suited to a family as it is to the demands of a high-mileage business driver. Just like every SEAT, sporting character and driving fun stand side by side with a high degree of usability. Thanks to its surprisingly dynamic handling, powerful drivelines ranging from 140 to 200 hp and the latest hi-tech equipment, every kilometre driven in the Alhambra is a joy -- especially as they don't come at the expense of outstanding efficiency. With average fuel consumption of only 5.5 litres, the Alhambra sets a benchmark in its segment.

The future began a long time ago for SEAT -- with a taster already unveiled live at the 2010 Geneva Auto Salon, by the name of IBE. With this compact sports coupe, SEAT is delivering an impressive statement of stunning design and great driving fun for the age of electric mobility. The SEAT IBE concept car uses the zero-emissions drive of the future in a sporty and dynamic concept for urban mobility, while the clean, athletic styling of the IBE concept offers an exciting perspective on the ongoing development of the next generation of SEAT design. Powerful proportions and a precise, clear design language define the continued evolution of the Spanish brand's design DNA.

Leading role in environmentally-friendly technologies

SEAT is among those vehicle makers with exceptional expertise in environmentally-friendly technologies. Recent years have seen fuel consumption continually reduced across the individual model ranges, with SEAT ECOMOTIVE developing into a brand for exceptionally fuel-efficient vehicles and enjoying huge market success. The pinnacle is the Ibiza ECOMOTIVE, which gets by on an average fuel consumption of just 3.7 litres and emissions of only 98 grams of CO2 per km, despite its powerful output of 80 hp (50 kW). SEAT has continuously expanded its ECOMOTIVE offering, with the Leon, Altea, Altea XL and Alhambra ranges also set to receive similarly fuel-efficient TDI variants.

The next stage in the SEAT strategy is the Leon Twin Drive ECOMOTIVE -- its driveline functions with a combination of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Yet it is much more than a regular hybrid -- it is a plug-in vehicle. Its lithium-ion battery can be charged from a power socket, with a subsequent range of around 50 kilometres. The internal combustion engine kicks in on longer trips. The first series production versions of the Leon Twin Drive ECOMOTIVE are planned for 2014.

One key aspect for this objective is the development of environmental conservation strategies. SEAT is tackling an ambitious project to generate clean energy at the Martorell factory by installing 320,000 m2 of solar panels, which will make it one of the most sustainable facilities in its sector. Jointly developed with the Gestamp group, the system's 10 MW of photovoltaic panels will generate more than 13 million kwh of electricity annually, or the equivalent of the electricity consumption required by 3,000 households per year. At the same time, generating clean electric energy will avoid the emission of more than 6,200 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Intensive work on the electric car

The development goal is a fully electric automobile of the kind previewed by the SEAT IBE concept car. The IBE also signals the start of a focused project to promote and develop electro-mobility in Spain. 16 leading technology companies, as well as 16 universities and research organisations have come together to form the Cenit VERDE initiative.

Based on its expertise in the research, development and production of automobiles, SEAT has taken the leading industrial role in this project. With support from the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation (CDTI), the company will research, develop and establish the basis for electro-mobility. The objective is the investigation of technologies for the production of electric vehicles in Spain and for the establishment of the associated infrastructure. This initiative is one of the most ambitious challenges facing Spanish industry. As the Spanish vehicle maker, SEAT is delivering definitive impetus with the IBE concept car.

Backbone of Spanish industry

SEAT currently employs 13,500 workers, and its multiplying effect on Catalan industry is 1.6% (over 3% on employment). According to a study by the Catalan government, the company actually represents 5% of Catalonia's GDP and 1.5% of the Spanish total. In 2008, the company earmarked 234 million euros to R&D+I (588 million if you add the investment in new products, manufacturing equipment and improvements), making it the second-largest private capital R&D investor in all of Spain, according to figures released by the European Union Statistics Office Eurostat. At the Technical Centre alone, which concentrates the company's research activities, nearly 1,000 highly qualified personnel work on a daily basis.

Company history

The brand has reached a stage of maturity with a consolidated product line-up and an accumulation of valuable experience that puts it on the path to take on the challenges of tomorrow with guarantees of success. SEAT embodies the past, the present and the future of our country's car manufacturing industry.

SEAT has become a prominent brand since its integration within the VW group and is a common fixture in most market segments with a broad range of models featuring home-made design, strong personality and Mediterranean flavour. By joining this great consortium, SEAT benefits from common investment in research and development, access to cutting-edge technologies and valuable know-how in several areas.

One of the resulting synergies is sharing and jointly developing the basic platforms of group cars, which leads to sharp cost-cutting. At the same time, expansion into European markets continually grows thanks to the group's extensive distribution network. SEAT's early calling as an export company has intensified in recent years.

But things weren't always like that, neither for the brand nor for the country. When the company was set up in the postwar period, the fleet of vehicles was in a precarious state; there weren't any working factories and personal transportation needs were barely taken care of with motorcycles or microcars running on a motorcycle engine.

After several unsuccessful attempts, the SEAT project took shape in 1948 through an initiative taken by the government and a conglomerate of private investors. Contacts with several foreign manufacturers finally resulted in an agreement with Fiat.

All of this happened exactly six decades ago. History in the making.


Sixty years ago today, the spring of 1950 saw the origins of "Sociedad Española de Automoviles de Turismo " -- SEAT. The company was officially set up on 9 May when an agreement was signed between the public INI organisation (Instituto Nacional de Industria, with 51% of the share capital or 600 million pesetas of the time, equivalent to 3.6 million euros today), seven large Spanish banks (42%) and Italian car manufacturer Fiat (7%), who contributed technical assessment and a manufacturing licence for their models.

The factory, erected on a site in Barcelona's Zona Franca next to the harbour, stood on a surface area of 20 hectares. The covered facilities exceeded 95,000 square metres, most of which (75,000 m2 ) was set aside for assembly, 7,500 for offices and laboratories, 2,300 for the thermal power station and the rest for warehouses. The choice of the Catalan capital wasn't arbitrary -- since the beginning of the 20th century, Barcelona had been the country's car manufacturing hub, both home-grown (Hispano-Suiza, Elizalde) and foreign (Ford Motor Iberica, General Motors Peninsular). The city therefore had an extensive industrial background and a pool of skilled labour.

The assembly line came to life in May 1953, and SEAT's first car rolled off on 13 November -- the 1400 A, an impressive rear-wheel drive sedan with a 4 cylinder front-mounted 44 hp engine, the historic equivalent to today's Exeo. Daily output was five cars and the workforce was 925 strong -- but these figures would increase exponentially.

By the end of 1954, 959 units had been delivered for a sales volume of 123 million pesetas. A year later production climbed to 3,000 units, with nearly 100% domestic components, and the number of workers stood at 1,700. In 1956, 7,000 cars were built; the following year the figure was 10,000. Two years later the workforce numbered 5,000. Faced with the lack of related industries, SEAT was forced to stimulate the creation of supply companies in order to nationalise all the components of the 1400, providing them with technical assessment, patents and in some cases working capital.

In 1957 SEAT launched the 600, which practically gave the country its first wheels. The impact of this tiny rear-mounted rear-wheel drive utility car on Spanish society is still under sociological analysis today. Not only was it the first car for many, but it was an injection of quality of life that provided mobility and freedom like no other product in Spain had ever managed to do.

Its arrival transformed Spanish streets and roads. Legions of microcars and motorcycles with or without sidecar that were so common were gradually replaced. Because the 600 was a real car, with its 4 cylinder engine, its metal doors, room for four people and even heating.

The new SEAT caused a great deal of excitement and orders began pouring in. By March 1957 there were more than 100,000 and the company couldn't take any more. The market at the time had a limited offer and the few existing brands a low output. But SEAT was in the best position to take on the challenge and in one year, production figures of the 600 multiplied by six. Profits reached a peak around 1956, at 15%. In the second half of the decade, the proportion of distributed profit gradually increased to 13% in 1958. the recession linked to economic reforms caused margin to slip and froze paid dividends in 1959. Profit margins began improving in the 60s due to sharp sales increases, and levelled off at around 10%.


The dynamic line, SEAT's stylistic theme into the 21st century put forth by the company's new design director Walter da Silva, sets the brand's design course on the Salsa and Tango prototypes. At the same time, the model line-up undergoes a substantial renovation. There are more Leon versions (150 hp TDI, Cupra, Cupra R and FR), the Alhambra and the Arosa get revamped, the third generation Ibiza and second generation Cordoba are introduced, and SEAT Sport launches a limited series Ibiza Cupra R. After winning the German rally with the Cordoba WRC, SEAT withdraws from the event but returns to Spanish circuit racing by organising the first Supercopa Leon in 2002. With half a century of experience under its belt and integrated within the same group of brands with Audi and Lamborghini, SEAT is decidedly forward-looking, already sells its cars on the Internet ( and adopts a new slogan that proudly declares its unmistakeably Latin-based Mediterranean personality: autoemocion.

At this stage SEAT resorts once again to competition. Hundreds of rally and track victories throughout the decades give them an enviable trophy cabinet, but SEAT's sport policy goes to new levels. In 2003 the company registers the Toledo Cupra in the ETCC European Touring Car Championship. They compete in 2004 and the following year the event goes global (WTCC). SEAT begins racing with the Toledo Cupra but replaces it half-way through with the new Leon. The brilliant early results (3rd in 2006 and 2nd in 2007) only whet the appetite for what follows -- SEAT outperforms all its petrol-powered rivals and the Leon TDI takes both the drivers' and manufacturers' titles in 2008 and 2009. Thanks to its advanced diesel technology SEAT manages something which seems impossible. It is the first time a Spanish make takes the title and an absolute first for a diesel engine to win a world touring car championship.

As a result, almost the entire line features a sporty Cupra R and FR version, including the new Altea. The Ibiza exceeds 4 million units. The range grows with more variants and evolves parallel to the latest market trends. The name chosen for the new Ibiza SC SportCoupe Bocanegra evokes SEAT's recent past -- this popular nickname for the sporty 1200/1430 Sport of the 70s remains embedded in the country's collective memory. Furthermore, the new Exeo presented at the 2008 Paris Motor Show signals SEAT's move into the semi-premium segment. SEAT's prestige as a quality car maker with sporty appeal and at a reasonable price hasn't stopped growing since the beginning of this millennium.

-source: SEAT

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series General