At the same time that parent company Volkswagen accused Australia of being “positively hostile” to EVs, one of its little-known subsidiary brands, Cupra, announced that it will be expanding to the Australian market this year, reportedly starting with its mid-size coupe-SUV Formentor.
Formed only a few years ago out of what was once Seat Sport, Cupra bills itself as “an unconventional challenger brand based on stimulating style and contemporary performance that inspires the world from Barcelona with progressive cars and experiences.”
With its own corporate headquarters as well as a racing car workshop nearby in Barcelona, Spain, Cupra has already sold more than 70,000 cars since its launch in 2018.
The carmaker currently offers both ICE and hybrid versions of its Cupra Leon and Cupra Formentor, and recently announced the launch of the brand’s first all-electric model, the Cupra Born.
Boasting 500-kilometres of electric range on a single charge and built on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB Platform, the Cupra Born is set to go into production at Volkswagen’s manufacturing plant in Zwickau, Germany, the same as the MEB based Volkswagen ID.3.
Cupra expects to bring the Born to market later this year.
A second all-electric model was also promised this week by Cupra President Wayne Griffiths at the company’s annual press conference, the Cupra Tavascan, also based on the MEB Platform and which is expected to begin deliveries to Europe and overseas markets in 2024.
All of which bodes well for Australia, as Cupra announced this week that it would expand the brand’s reach to our shores in 2022.
“I can announce that next year we will start our operations in Australia as a key move towards expanding in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Griffiths.
“Australia is a young market and Cupra is a young brand. Customers are looking for new brands, there is a high middle-class income and it is a progressive society. We are confident that Cupra can be successful in this country.”
“Volkswagen Group Australia is expanding,” said Michael Bartsch, the Managing Director of Volkswagen Group Australia. “With its unique models combining stimulating style and contemporary performance, Cupra could scarcely be a range better bespoke to a certain Australian customer set.”
What makes this news all the more interesting is that it comes at the same time that Michael Bartsch was quoted in an interview with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that the Australian Government’s position on EVs is “embarrassing”.
“Hardly a day goes by when we don’t get an inquiry from someone who would dearly love to buy a Volkswagen electric vehicle, and we have to tell them we don’t know when we can introduce them. It seems to get more and more uncertain,” he was quoted as saying.
An unnamed spokesperson from Volkswagen went on to tell The Driven that Australia was “positively hostile” to EVs and was in the “automotive third world”.
“I don’t think it’s a left or right issue, it’s a right or a wrong issue, and Australia is in the wrong,” he said.
Bartsch has previously flagged 2023 as the arrival date in Australia for Volkswagen’s ID.3 small SUV and the ID.4 golf-sized hatch back, but since then there have been further setbacks in the Australian market, most notably Victoria’s EV road user tax and a widely-panned federal EV “Future Fuels” discussion paper, which rejected any meaningful incentives of EVs.
Volkswagen’s existing antipathy towards Australia’s lacklustre support for electric vehicles, on top of these recent issues, is likely to see Australian car enthusiasts waiting even longer for the company’s electric vehicle options.
That being said, allowing a small subsidiary brand test the waters with its hybrid options would be a potential way forward for Volkswagen, but whether or not Cupra will be bringing its hybrid options to Australia is unknown at the moment.