We all know that the Volkswagen Group has a zillion brands, but have you ever heard of its Cupra nameplate? VW’s sporty EV-focused brand has begun testing for a possible expansion to the U.S., Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths said.
Cupra is a Spanish automaker that was originally a performance division of SEAT cars. It became a standalone brand in 2018 and VW is currently eyeing introducing it to the United States. This move is part of Cupra’s goal of selling 500,000 cars annually by 2030. Griffiths said that the first results of the tests are promising, but he did not specify which models might be sold in the U.S.
Cupra’s current lineup includes four compact models: the Formentor, Ateca, Leon, and UrbanRebel. The brand will soon be joined by two more crossovers: the Terramar and Tavascan. These vehicles are all based on platforms shared with other Volkswagen Group brands, such as Audi and Skoda.
Cupra has been expanding its presence in other markets worldwide, including Australia, Mexico, and Colombia. The brand has also been successful in China, where it has sold more than 10,000 vehicles in the past year.
If Cupra is able to expand successfully into the U.S., it will be a significant boost for the brand. The U.S. is the world’s most important car market, and Cupra is hoping to toss its hat into the ring.
There are a few challenges that Cupra will need to overcome in order to be successful in the U.S. The brand is not well-known here on the other side of the pond, and it will need to build up brand awareness. Cupra will also need to compete with a myriad of other established brands,
Despite the challenges, Cupra is confident that it can be successful in the U.S. The brand has a strong product lineup, including three new EV models.
Griffiths said if Cupra enters the U.S. market, it will do so only with larger, full-electric models. “You need a car in the U.S. that’s fit for the U.S. and electric,” he told Autocar. “A U.S. electric car is generally bigger, so it will be the next generation of electric cars that would be based on the SSP platform from VW.” That platform is expected sometime after 2025. Griffiths said the timing of a U.S. market entry would be linked to Cupra’s move to an electric-only brand, which he has said will be by 2030.
Cupra, also needs to establish itself in Europe, he added. “The investments for making cars ready for America are considerable, and I think we need to be stronger first in Europe and make sure we’ve done our homework,” he said, adding that Cupra was seeking a European market share of 3 to 4 percent. Cupra’s market share at the end of February was 1.2 percent, according to industry group ACEA, a 60 percent increase from 2022.
The North American market has long been coveted by sporty European brands. The Stellantis group’s Alfa Romeo brand’s first effort ended in 1995, but it returned to the U.S. in 2014, first with the niche 4C coupe, then with the midsize Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover. The compact Tonale crossover debuted this year, and brand Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato said in January that a large full-electric vehicle will be developed by 2027 to expand in the U.S. It will be interesting to see how Cupra and other hopeful European OEMs fare in the crowded, ultra-competitive U.S. market.
ElectrifiedMag’s Take: The last thing the North American market needs is another car brand and more capacity, especially as it looks like we’re headed towards a recession, but these Cupra prototypes look pretty cool. The styling has some baked-in VW DNA which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Volkswagens haven’t been tearing up the sales charts in the U.S. for years now. In the transition to the electrification of the automobile more models available to the consumer is a good thing, even if the market is saturated already. what do you think? Let us know in the comments.