¡Feliz cumpleanos SEAT! Or, to put it another way, happy birthday SEAT! The Spanish car maker is, this month, celebrating a big milestone in its history as it turns 60.
The Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo, S.A. may have been established on 9th May 1950, but SEAT is far from being a pensioner. After an eventful history thus far, the firm now boasts a distinctive character and a clear strategy with a dynamic model line-up, state-of-the-art technology and exciting design.
Far from resting on its laurels, the brand is also gearing up for an exciting and successful future with its flagship Technical Centre in Martorell host to exciting and intensive development work. The SEAT IBE Concept, for instance, is a strong pointer to how well-placed the Spanish will be in the age of electro-mobility.
The British President of SEAT, S.A. James Muir said: "SEAT is heading on a clear course towards the next phase of its development.
"With the introduction of the Ibiza ST and the new Alhambra, in the autumn the SEAT product line-up will become the newest in its history. We fulfil a broad spectrum of customer desires, yet always deliver automobiles with unique character.
"Every SEAT is unmistakeable in its design, is incredibly sporty and offers innovative technology and outstanding value-for-money."
Mr Muir added: "The most important thing, however, is our highly motivated teams in design, development and production."
The hi-tech work going on at SEAT's headquarters in Martorell near Barcelona is, of course, a far cry from the earliest days of the Spanish firm. Yet 60 years after it was founded the company is better prepared for the future than ever.
The workforce at its headquarters in Barcelona stands at 11,000 with around 1,300 people working at the Technical Centre, the brand's bespoke research and development facility. The central production site is the Martorell plant, one of the most advanced in Europe, with its highly developed logistics systems and flexible production processes. Around 2,000 cars are built there every day.
Since the first SEAT 1400 rolled off the Zona Franca line in 1953 SEAT has produced more than 16 million vehicles, with 2009 contributing 337,000 of those. Two thirds of production is exported; the majority going to the European market. Globally, SEAT has more than 3,000 sales and service outlets in a total of 72 countries.
And SEAT's pivotal position in both the Catalan and Spanish economies cannot be underestimated. According to a study by the Catalan government the company represents five per cent of Catalonia's GDP and 1.5% of the entire Spanish total.
SEAT has become an even more prominent brand since its integration within the Volkswagen Group - a process which began in 1982 and was completed eight years later when the Group became its sole shareholder.
But things haven't always been so rosy. When the company was set up in the post-war period Spain was in a precarious state; there were precious few working factories and personal transportation needs were largely taken care of with motorcycles or microcars running on motorcycle engines.
After several unsuccessful attempts, the SEAT project finally began to take shape in 1948 through an initiative taken by the Spanish government and a conglomerate of private investors. Contacts with several foreign manufacturers finally resulted in an agreement with Fiat and, as we know, in May 1950 SEAT was 'born'.
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