Volkswagen president confirms Seat will manufacture electric cars in Martorell during visit from King and Sánchez

Catalan Government stands up Spanish authorities on 70th anniversary of the brand

3 min
King Felipe VI and Pedro Sánchez at Seat de Martorell. Albert Gea / REUTERS

BarcelonaSeat will manufacture electric cars in its Martorell plant. The president of the Volkswagen group, Herbert Diess, confirmed it this Friday during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Catalan brand, chaired by King Felipe and the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, and which was not attended by any member of the Catalan Government. The event was marked by the pandemic, but also by future plans to make mobility more sustainable and digital.

Felipe VI and Pedro Sánchez's visit to Martorell has been more pleasant than their last visits to Catalonia. Only about thirty people have seconded the calls of ANC, Òmnium and CDRs to mobilise against the visit. The two biggest pro-independence organisations deployed four banners in bridges on the AP-7 and the A-2 with the slogan "Catalonia does not have a king".

During the visit, the king was accompanied by Industry Minister Reyes Maroto, Volkswagen group president Herbert Diess, Seat and Cupra president Wayne Griffiths, and Spanish government delegate in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera. The king visited the assembly line for Seat's first hybrid models and the design centre, and then the entourage moved on to the new Cupra offices. Outside, the authorities have seen the first plug-in hybrid models of Seat and Cupra, such as the Leon and the Formentor, the brand's electric motorbikes and scooters.

Already inside the Cupra offices, in a brief act, the president of Seat, the president of Volkswagen and King Felipe took the floor. In his speech, Felipe VI used only Catalan to express his satisfaction at being in Catalonia, "a land that represents the global, audacious, enterprising spirit that must identify us in the times of change that we will live through".

Felipe VI's speech focused on expressing the State's commitment to the automotive industry and on the need to decarbonise mobility and commit to the electric car in order to maintain Spain as the second largest car producer in Europe. In this sense, he was pleased with the announcement on Thursday of the creation of a consortium between the State, Seat, Volkswagen and Iberdrola, open to third parties, to build a battery plant. "Spain wants to be a pioneer," said the king, who recalled that not only will batteries be assembled; the entire value chain, from the extraction and refinement of lithium to the design and manufacture of batteries will be done in the new plant.

Felipe VI has made a review of what the automotive sector means for Spain and the measures that have been taken during the pandemic, such as state credits for companies, the furlough scheme, the plan to boost the automotive sector and the allocation of European recovery funds, and thanked Volkswagen's commitment to the sector.

Seat calls for incentives to demand

Volkswagen's top executive, Herbert Diess, said that Spain had "great potential to be a leader in the automotive sector in Europe". "In Spain we plan to produce electric cars, here in Martorell, and produce cells and batteries," he said, and stressed that this will be possible with European recovery funds. Diess recalled that the Volkswagen group has tripled the sale of electric cars in recent years and has maintained that Seat's commitment to electrification will create jobs and improve the production chain.

The president of Seat, Wayne Griffiths, recalled the company's commitment to invest €5bn by 2025 with the aim of electrifying products, but also took the opportunity to ask for the support of the Spanish authorities in this process. "We can't do it alone," said Griffiths, who called for "incentives for demand" and a commitment from the State to create infrastructure to charge electric vehicles.

Griffiths called on the administrations to create an "ecosystem for the electric vehicle". The executive was convinced that the arrival of vaccines will help improve the economic situation, said that Seat wants to lead Spain's economic recovery and pointed out the desire to electrify both companies and the country: "Seat put Spain on wheels 70 years ago, and now wants to put it on electric wheels".

The president of Seat and Cupra stressed the company's "firm commitment to the country, industry and Spanish society", and recalled that it has made its facilities available to the authorities for the process of vaccinating the population. He also pointed out that the company's main objective has been to "generate value, play an important role in the industry and create and maintain [quality] employment", especially for young people.

To accelerate the development of this ecosystem for electric mobility, said Griffiths, Volkswagen and Seat will seek collaboration with key organisations such as Iberdrola in electricity, Telefónica in telecommunications, CaixaBank in the financial field and the technology center Asti, as well as suppliers such as Gestamp and Antolin.