If you're an American who's traveled to Europe or Mexico, you might have noticed cars from Volkswagen's SEAT brand. Once an independent Spain-based automaker, SEAT spent years making more stylish, sometimes more competitively priced versions of Volkswagen's cars, which made it a hit in many parts of the world. So much so that SEAT spun off its performance-focused label Cupra into a standalone, sporty, EV-focused brand in 2018. Cupra's cars look much more aggressive than your average VW, but so far, the U.S. hasn't gotten any of that love.

That's going to change in a few years. At SEAT's annual media conference today in Barcelona, Wayne Griffiths, who serves as CEO of both brands, announced that Cupra will debut in the U.S. by the end of this decade with two new all-electric SUVs. 

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The Volkswagen Group aims to conquer America in a big way

SEAT's Cupra brand, along with the relaunched Scout Motors brand, represent big EV-focused ambitions for the Volkswagen Group in America. The conglomerate is huge in the rest of the world but has long struggled for the same level of mainstream success in the U.S. as other "imports" like Toyota and Honda.

"We want to build on our outstanding success in overseas markets," Griffiths said. "But when we talk 'global,' when we say 'bigger,' we mean the United States of America."

Griffiths said the company had been examining a possible U.S. entry for some time as it seeks more of a worldwide presence, but now it's official. "We know it's a matter of being well-prepared and doing it right if you go to the U.S., so after testing the brand, we know our cars will reflect what customers are looking for." 

Gallery: Cupra Formentor VZ5

Griffiths said the company plans to start with an electric version of the Formentor crossover, and an as-yet-unnamed "bigger" electric SUV. (They really do know the U.S. market, it seems.) The cars will be built at Volkswagen's North American factories, including Mexico, which should qualify them for EV tax credits.

He added that Cupra will launch in key states, and it seems focused on the two coasts and the Sun Belt. And as for sales, Cupra may be up to something interesting here. "This will be done through a new distribution model," he said, but didn't elaborate further. 

Cupra USA Announcement

It's all a very fascinating move from the Volkswagen Group—especially the "new distribution model" part of the equation. It is possible Cupra could dip into some form of direct-to-consumer sales like Tesla or Rivian, or some new hybrid system that may work with some established dealers. It remains to be seen how VW's various dealers in America will feel about this, but automakers everywhere are experimenting with new ways to get cars to customers—including, in some cases, as dealers balk at selling EVs

But the move also fits with the VW Group's more aggressive focus on the U.S. market. While its brands are dominant globally, and Porsche and Audi are both iconic and profitable here, the VW Group as a whole lacks the immense presence it has in Europe and other places. That's a big reason it's launching the new Scout Motors electric truck brand, complete with its own factory in South Carolina. Adding Cupra to that mix with an EV focus will only help to bolster things here. 

InsideEVs has reached out to the VW Group for more information and we will update if we learn more.

Contact the author: patrick.george@insideevs.com

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