The Seat brand needs a clearer message of its place in the market if it is to fulfil the potential given to it by the excellent new Leon.
AM endeavours to write road tests that take into account the requirements and expectations of dealers faced with the challenge of selling a car, rather than concern itself with driving characteristics (the dreaded torque word is to be avoided at all times). Instead, in this instance, we talked directly to a Seat dealer to explore the challenges and opportunities the Leon has given him.
“It was a crucial vehicle for the brand,” he said. “So much of the volume – about 70% – of Seat sales had been the Ibiza. It had become a one-model franchise.”
Adding to the challenge was the margin being squeezed on the old Leon as run-out models were highly specced to lure customers, with no impact on the price they were asked to pay.
As AM has stated previously, the Leon is a winning car in the segment. The dealer we spoke to agreed: “Once we got people into the showroom and into the cars, they were bowled over by the build quality and the drive,” he said. It was also crucial for cars to be available – once cars begin to get seen on the roads, showroom interest follows. Choice is still driven by the badge on the car to a large extent, he said.
So Seat has the car to win heart and minds once bums have landed on seats. What it now needs is to clarify its position in the Volkswagen Group and in the market.
“Spain controls the marketing message, hence you see a lot of ads filmed in Spain with left-hand drive cars and sometimes features that are not on sale in the UK. It is also sold as the sporty, design-led brand in the group, and yet alongside the Ibiza which fits that description, we are having to sell Alteas, which don’t,” the dealer said. The Ibiza’s target market of 19- to 23-year-olds is very fickle and demands to be excited by the ‘latest thing’ on a regular basis, not a car that is now six years old.
“The new Leon is the first indication Seat can fulfil on its brand promise. I need more cars like it to reinforce and solidify its position in the car buyers’ eyes.”
The Leon is a Hispanic version of the Golf, the Audi A3 and the Škoda Octavia. Sharing engineering, construction, parts and expertise with those three big hitters is only ever going to improve your game.
The seats are La-Z-Boy-comfy and my passengers in the back confirmed the legroom was fine – ‘fine’ being three-door-car-speak for ‘amazing’.