It’s an unlikely rivalry, but it’s one that could turn into a barn-burner

Alfa Romeo is making so much noise these days that even its rivals have begun to take notice. Hyundai (not really a rival) has made it clear it plans to compete against the Italian automaker. Now, Volkswagen wants a piece of Alfa Romeo, too. But instead of directly competing against the marquee, Volkswagen is looking for SEAT to do it. The thought of SEAT competing against Alfa Romeo may sound ridiculous on the surface, but the Spanish automaker has made great strides toward improving its identity in recent years. So much so, in fact, that competing against a legacy brand that’s having a renaissance of sorts isn’t something that any of us can dismiss outright.

Volkswagen Might Use SEAT to Take on Alfa Romeo After All Exterior
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SEAT did what it could, but it just didn’t have the kind of appeal that could make people turn their heads the way Alfa Romeo did.

Believe it or not, there was a time in the past when the Volkswagen Group thought SEAT had the chops to compete against Alfa Romeo. The effort failed in large part because SEAT didn’t have any aspirational models to throw at Alfa Romeo, let alone a dedicated fan base like that which kept Alfa afloat even in its lean years. SEAT did what it could, but it just didn’t have the kind of appeal that could make people turn their heads the way Alfa Romeo did.

Today, SEAT has made big strides in becoming the emotional brand it always wanted to be. It still has a long way to go to elicit the same reaction that Alfa does, but it’s on the right track. It certainly helps that as much of a legacy brand as Alfa Romeo is, it has struggled in recent years in gaining the attention of younger buyers who were either too young or too indifferent to remember the Italian brand’s glory years.

It also helps SEAT that Volkswagen is finally pushing to give the brand its own identity, one that it can position directly against Alfa and not feel inferior doing so. "Young, sporty, desirable, emotional - this is how we are positioning Seat a little higher," Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess told Automotive News. "Today, Seat has a much better product mix than just a few years ago and has the youngest customers in the group network. I believe this brand still has plenty more potential.”

Volkswagen Might Use SEAT to Take on Alfa Romeo After All Exterior
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It may still take some time before SEAT can firmly entrench itself as a legitimate rival to Alfa Romeo

A big part of that potential comes from the level of awareness people have of SEAT these days. With models like the Leon, Ateca, and Tarraco in the fold, the Spanish automaker has a diverse and well-developed lineup that can compete against the best the industry has to offer. The company has also made great strides in turning the Cupra nameplate into a stand-alone performance brand that can not only roll out a range of sportier models but also develop highly emotional performance models of its own. The Cupra Ibiza and Cupra Ateca models provided a solid foundation of what Cupra could do as its own brand. Soon enough, it’s going to have more models in the fold, including hybrid and electrified performance machines that will have the performance qualities to back up the company’s ambition.

It may still take some time before SEAT can firmly entrench itself as a legitimate rival to Alfa Romeo. But, what was once a door that was slightly ajar has now been blown wide open. The days of SEAT being considered as an automotive afterthought are now over. The Spanish brand has a lot to offer now, and if given the opportunity and the freedom to spread its wings, it could give the folks over at Alfa Romeo some new competition to deal with.

Further reading

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Read more Volkswagen news.

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Read more Seat news.

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Read more Alfa Romeo news.

Source: Automotive News

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