SEAT is the largest Spanish car manufacturer and the only one with the ability to develop its own cars in-house, at its headquarters in Martorell, Spain. Its fun, sporty cars are marketed to young drivers and the company has produced over 16 million cars. The name stands for “Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo,” which, in English, means Spanish Touring Car Company. SEAT is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group.
SEAT was first founded in 1950 and mainly funded by the Spanish government to revitalize the automotive development in Spain. Its headquarters holds a large industrial complex with a technical center, research and development center, design center and prototype center, among others. The facilities are some of the best among the Volkswagen Group, which allows the Company to produce excellent, high-quality vehicles.
From 1953 to 1965, SEAT only produced cars for sale in Spain. Through the negotiation of a deal with Fiat in 1967, SEAT was finally able to distribute internationally through a newly formed network and by 1969 it was exporting to several countries overseas. The Fiat partnership provided the company the ability to develop new technologies, and its new ownership under Volkswagen has only expanded that development. As a company, it not only produces its own cars but also the parts for several other luxury and efficiency vehicles. Its new focus is on electric and green cars, and the mission is to market in China.
SEAT is also heavily involved in motorsports, and has been since the 1970s. SEAT Sport became a separate division under Volkswagen and since then, SEAT has won some of racing’s most prestigious titles in both the World Rally Championship and the World Touring Car Championship.
Up until 2013, the SEAT Exeo was the company’s flagship model, but was just recently replaced by the new SEAT Toledo in the sedan category and the SEAT Leon ST in the station wagon category. The Exeo was derived from the Audi B7 A4, but with a front-wheel drive system.
SEAT has varying availabilities in each country, worldwide. Overall, it has six models on the market: the Mii, Ibiza, Toledo, Leon, Altea, and Alhambra.
Mii: The Mii is a Spanish version of the Volkswagen up! and is a city car that has been in production since 2011.
Ibiza: The Ibiza is SEAT’s best-selling car, a supermini produced since 1984. Named after the island in Spain, the car is a three- or five- door hatchback though also available as a five-door “estate” car, or station wagon-styled car. There are also three sports versions, the Ibiza FR, Ibiza Cupra, and the Ibiza Cupra Bocanegra. It has won awards in Spain and Portugal.
Toledo: The Toledo is a small, five-door family car first added to the SEAT line-up in 1991. It has gone through several facelifts and is now on the fourth generation. It has won awards in both Germany and Portugal.
Leon: A small, family sports hatchback that has been in production since 1998. Built off of the Audi A3 platform, this car has advanced safety features that have earned it European awards for its breaking and lane assist systems.
Altea: The Altea is considered a compact, multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) first launched in 2004. It had better-than-expected sales in its first year, selling 31,223 units. It’s a sportier family car than its rivals.
Alhambra: This is the larger multi-purpose vehicle in the lineup, named after a famous monument in Spain, the Alhambra of Granada. It has won 9 awards as the best MPV on the market in several countries throughout Europe.
The SEAT Marbella, previously known as the SEAT Panda, was first sold from 1980 to 1998. It was rebadged as the Marbella in 1983 as a more luxurious version of the Panda.
The SEAT Arosa was a city car that was produced between 1997 and 2004, replaced by the SEAT Mii.
The SEAT Inca was a panel van made between 1996 and 2003. Its asymmetrical rear doors eased loading and its strong trailer capabilities – able to carry over 1,000 pounds and pull over 2,000 pounds – made it an ideal commercial vehicle.
The SEAT Cordoba was a larger version of the Ibiza supermini, manufactured between 1993 and 2009. It was first presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and is a car in between the sizes of a Volkswagen Golf and a Volkswagen Jetta.
SEAT has also produced many concept cars presented at auto shows all over Europe since 1955.
The SEAT Panda was used as the Popemobile in 1982 for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Spain in that same year. It was a completely open-air car, made so that the Pope could greet the crowds around him.
The Formula Nacional racing series in Spain was first started by SEAT in 1970, where formula race cars driven by young Spanish drivers were all equipped with SEAT engines and gearboxes.