Confident SEAT chief forecasts diesel engines are far from dead
New car-testing system set to have major impact
Diesels will be up to 15pc more efficient within a few years, and that will help ensure the fuel continues to have a relevant role well into the future.
That's the view of SEAT chief Luca de Meo (right), as outlined in a Q&A with Independent Motors this week.
He takes the view that until other power sources are consolidated technically and on the market, traditional engines will continue to be the basis of mobility for the auto industry.
While critics might point to the fact that he would say that given SEAT is part of the Volkswagen Group, his opinion can also be viewed as reflecting a stronger position being adopted by some industry bosses.
Is there a bit of a diesel fightback? In fairness, he wasn't asked about, and didn't refer to, reductions in NOx, the emissions that have given rise to so many health concerns with diesel. Anyway, in response to five key questions about current trends and his own marque he had this to say on:
Is diesel dead? "We believe it will continue to play a relevant role in the future. Over the next few years, additional fuel consumption reductions of between 10pc and 15pc will be possible in diesel engines. Until other forms of alternative drive are consolidated, both technologically as well as on the market, the traditional engines will continue to be the basis of mobility for the auto industry."
He also pointed out SEAT has a "strong commitment" to developing compressed natural gas as an alternative fuel. "Compressed natural gas vehicles are one of the most sustainable solutions to fill in the gap between the traditional and the electric engine," he said.
NEW-CAR TESTING SYSTEM (WLTP)
The new WLTP car testing system is a more accurate measurement of MPG and emissions. It started for all brand new cars last September and embraces all new cars from September next. Asked how it will affect decisions on what engines SEAT will put in their cars over the next 10 years he said: "We will be very strict with our procedures and will adapt to the new WLTP standards as soon as they are in force. The SEAT Ateca will be the first of our vehicles to receive a WLTP certified engine in March 2018. The entire range will be WLTP-certified before September 1, 2018."
WLTP AND PRICE OF CARS
Did he think WLTP will increase the cost/price of cars over the next few years? "It will certainly change the industry's way of doing things when it comes to pricing," he said. "The commercial offer will have to be simplified and set in a different way, and there will be some restrictions in the after-sales business. Also, the CO2 values will be more representative with their respective influence in the final tax rate."
By what year did he envisage all their passenger cars to be electric? What steps have they taken to meet those targets? "Our goal in the next few years is to evolve from the three current technologies (petrol, diesel and CNG) to six, adding mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.
"In two years, SEAT will have a fully electric vehicle with a range of 500km, in addition to the plug-in hybrid version of the Leon."
Will 'full' CUPRA models affect the sporty/performance perception of SEAT cars? Mr de Meo said: "Our strategy is to diversify and focus on business models that might be profitable. CUPRA is targeting a specific customer group."
In answers to general questions, he revealed that after a 15pc sales increase last year they must grow again.
"To sustain this growth, we are going to launch one new car every six months until 2020. The first two will be the SEAT Tarraco and CUPRA Ateca," he said.
Next year the new SEAT Leon comes as a 5dr and as an ST family-sized version. In 2020 its first full EV is due.
"Also in 2020, we will introduce the Crossover Utility Vehicle in the line-up," he said. "The transition towards the electric vehicle will be challenging and has to be profitable."
There will be a plug-in hybrid version of the new SEAT Leon by 2020.