VW Will Bring This European Brand Stateside, Betting on EVs

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VW Will Bring This Brand Stateside, Betting on EVsLLUIS GENE - Getty Images
  • Volkswagen's Cupra brand, part of SEAT not long ago before it became a standalone brand in 2018, will launch stateside later in the decade, its CEO has revealed.

  • Cupra plans to offer an electric version of the Formentor, as well as a larger electric SUV.

  • The brand plans a "new distribution model," hinting at a direct sales approach that EV startups have embraced in contrast to traditional dealerships.

Fans of European cars will know Volkswagen's Spanish brand SEAT, but odds are Cupra will need a slightly more elaborate introduction.

Formerly an independent automaker launched in Spain in the 1950s, SEAT had been brought into the VW fold in the 1980s offering a lineup that was once fairly close to VW designs by the 1990s.


This meant we saw quite a few compact and midsize sedans that could be easily mistaken for VW models from afar, but with Spanish model names like Ibiza, Alhambra, Toledo, Leon, and Cordoba, to name a few. The brand itself has been quite popular in southern Europe, while also exporting its cars to Latin America.

SEAT itself may well have remained simply Volkswagen's Spanish brand, with a mildly differentiated lineup, but Wolfsburg gave it greater autonomy in the 2000s with its Cupra Racing division eventually becoming its own brand just a few years ago, in 2018.

Now Cupra is planning to come to the US, as unlikely as that may have seemed a few years ago, or even earlier this week for that matter.

What's more, SEAT and Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths was surprisingly specific about just which Cupra models we're going to see in a few years.

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An electric version of the Formentor will be one of the models launched stateside, the company has revealed.Sjoerd van der Wal - Getty Images

"By the end of the decade Cupra will be entering the US market. We plan to launch with the battery electric version of the Formentor and a bigger electric crossover SUV," Griffiths said. "That crossover SUV will be produced at Volkswagen Group factories in the North America region, including Mexico."

Of course, these plans also raise the question of overlap with the VW brand, not to mention Audi, which has played the luxury and performance role in VW's lineup for half a century in the US.

But for now, an electric crossover and large electric SUV certainly sound like something the US market could be in the mood for later in the decade, even though EV adoption rates are not growing as fast as once predicted.

"Initially, Cupra will launch in selected states in the East and West coasts and the Sun Belt states. This will be done through a new distribution model."

But Griffiths wasn't specific about just what kind of new distribution model would be involved, or what the launch year for Cupra will be.

At this point a "new distribution model" certainly sounds like a direct sales approach, familiar enough to EV shoppers but perhaps less familiar to traditional VW and Audi buyers. Griffiths also noted that Cupra had been considering entering the US for a while.

Cupra plans to focus on EVs when it arrives stateside, the brand’s CEO has revealed.picture alliance - Getty Images

You might recall a few years ago that yet another European VW brand, Skoda, was rumored to be considering a sales launch stateside, but ultimately chose to remain in other large markets including Europe and China.

Similarly to SEAT, the Czech division had also traditionally been one of VW's "budget" brands positioned below VW itself, but has since stretched into higher-priced territory, perhaps overlapping with VW's own lineup in many markets.

It will be interesting to hear in the coming months how this will sit with current VW dealers especially given the fact that VW's lineup has shrunk over the past decade, prompting concerns over a loss of direction for the brand.

What's more, Cupra won't be the only VW-owned brand to launch in the US in the coming years, as Scout is slated to begin production in 2026 with its own truck and SUV duo.

It's hard to tell what the name Cupra will mean to EV shoppers in the US once it gets here. But if VinFast could launch stateside in fairly short order with no name recognition, then a large VW division could presumably do the same.

Will Cupra see success stateside with electric offerings, or is this demand already served by VW and Audi? Let us know what you think.