Just a week ago, Wayne Griffiths he was serving one year as chairman of Seat, a position he makes compatible with that of Cupra, the sports subsidiary of the Spanish automobile company called to lead the electrification project in which the firm is immersed. A few weeks after the commercial launch of the Born, the firm’s first 100% electric model, Griffiths analyzes for ABC the challenges that the company faces.
The employers of the Anfac manufacturers have complained about the delay in the approval of the Perte for the electric vehicle, on which projects such as the electrification of Martorell or the battery factory in Spain depend.
I understand that the Government is doing everything that needs to be done, although always
we would like things to go faster, of course. Our goal is to manufacture an electric car in Martorell in 2025, and as Volkswagen group install a battery factory in Spain, but to make these decisions we need certainty and that the aid is confirmed.
Electrification in Spain is not keeping pace with that of the rest of Europe.
This is the part that worries me the most. At the end of August in Spain the accumulated market share of the electric car was 6.1%, while in Europe it is 15%. In the same way, growth in Spain is 35%, when in Europe it grows to 50%, and that without looking at specific countries, such as Germany or Austria.
The aid that is given here is not the one that is given in those countries.
That doesn’t help, of course. In addition, the Moves III plan is a national plan, and then each autonomy develops with its own regulations, and this slows everything down. Look, you don’t have to invent anything, just do like in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, the Netherlands …
A clear offer to the private customer, who can buy an electric car at the same price as a combustion one. In Germany, for example, in the Cupra Born that we now launch the ‘leasing’ fee is better than a combustion Leon. Imagine the route such an offer would have in Spain. This in terms of the private client, but you also have to think about companies, which are 50% of the market. There are no such offers here. And you have to start now.
There is a risk of being left behind. A Europe at two speeds.
I don’t want to see it as a risk, but as an opportunity. There is no other country with the potential of Spain in terms of renewable energy, but you have to put the batteries. Manufacturers are committed to doing our part: putting clean and accessible cars on the market. We are doing our homework in electrification, the rest must do it now.
What is the most urgent?
For example, charging infrastructure. In Spain, half of the cars sleep on the street, not like in Germany, where everyone has a garage. That is why here it is necessary to make a strong, decisive decision. Spain has set itself the goal of having a fleet of three million electric and hybrid vehicles by 2030. It is clear that at the rate we are going we are not reaching. You have to accelerate. Put goals to 2030 It is very easy: those who fix them will not be in their positions for ten years. You have to set goals for this year: for example, sell electricity in the same proportion as in Europe.
When can the VW consortium announce the awards for Spain?
The decision can only be made when we know the details of the Perte. What is clear is that the Volkswagen group is responsible for the technology and the Small VEB platform and Seat will develop the models for the different brands of the group. What models, what variants, on what floors, on what dates … that will be seen. HOh, what to look at together, because the plan is to electrify Spain, beyond a specific plant.
That the electrification in Seat begins with Cupra has raised doubts about its future.
The development of Cupra does not have to generate doubts, but trust. With the Cupra electric from 2025 on Martorell we are creating something very special, a car as emotional, sexy and sporty as no other. Developing Cupra ensures the future of Seat because it positions us in a much more profitable market segment. Cupra is not going to replace Seat.
Making electric cars involves fewer hours of work. Is employment in Martorell at risk?
It is true that the electric car involves fewer hours of work, but more engineering and content. The question is to see what part of that content you are capable of doing in your own company. It must be seen from a company perspective, but also from a group and country perspective. If we do a battery factory here this will generate employment. Now the discussion is not whether there will be more or less employment, but whether there will be employment if we do not make the decisions that must be made quickly.
There may be jobs for a few years making fuel engines, but we know that has a limited horizon.
One of the decisions to be made is the location of the battery factory. Aragon, halfway between the VW plant in Lanbaden and Martorell is an option?
I’m not going to speculate on this. There are many ingredients and actors involved, the only thing I can say is that I am going to fight for this factory to be in Spain.
What is the forecast for the end of the year? After the pandemic, the semiconductor crisis has arrived.
The year has been complicated after the summer. We had to stop the factory. This is clearly going to have an impact on volumes, and it’s a shame because we have the highest order demand ever and we can’t respond to it. We are prioritizing manufacturing the most profitable cars, such as the Formentor.
The commercial strategy of Seat and Cupra involves associating the image of the brand with Barcelona. Are you concerned about the image that is transmitted of the city?
If it continues like this, if it becomes chronic, it would be worrying. But if they are sporadic episodes, like those that can happen anywhere, no. It is necessary to recover normality. We continue to bet on Barcelona and Spain, with great pride. Cupra it can become a global Spanish brand, with projection throughout the world, with the image of Barcelona in front of it.