It recently announced that Seat would manufacture an electric car here in Spain and there has been a lot of talk about battery factories. At what point are we?
A distinction must be made between a battery cell production factory and a battery assembly factory. The group has announced one in southern Europe. We want it to be in Spain. Where? The decision has not been made. What we do need is to do this assembly near Martorell.
This plant is going to generate work and we want to have it close by. These are issues that involve a huge transformation and in record time that with the ‘green deal’ has accelerated a lot. To meet the requirements we have in Europe for 2030, more than half of the cars we sell have to be electric.
Now in Spain it is only 5% of the market and in Europe 10%. Within 8 or 9 years you have to achieve that 60% of the market. And for this you have to have infrastructure.
And the battery production plant?
For the factory, partners will be needed, the state will also be there, but also suppliers, it is in the national interest. Autonomous support is also necessary, because it is not a project for a specific autonomy but for all of Spain. This project meets all these requirements. I am optimistic and I know that they will support us. The electric car project is not just for Seat, it is for the whole country.
Will you make batteries?
We do not know everything, we cannot do it alone. We manufacture cars but we will also need people who know how to make batteries, but we must be involved otherwise it will happen to us as with semiconductors.
If you do not have your own production capacity it is a problem. We have seen this trend of globalization. As with vaccines or the same happens with the production of batteries. You have to be competitive and be part of the value of the entire chain.
It talks about controlling the value chain. Is there the key?
If we are able to control the value chain from top to bottom and not only have assembly in the manufacturing but also make electric motors, for example, yes. Being involved in the entire chain is key to getting a good business model, because only making small electric cars is difficult.
Is Spain very slow with electrification? Why?
Compared to the rest of Europe, I think that Spain lacks an even better aid plan for the electric car. The first electric cars were expensive due to their technological contribution and also because they have come from higher segments, with Premium cars, and the Premium market in Spain is small. A more long-term subsidy plan is lacking, and at a national, not regional, level.
And the infrastructure?
That goes very slow. But it is like the chicken and the egg. If you do not make cars we will not make recharging points and vice versa. Now it is accelerating. And then it is important to make an electric car that people can buy. We will do that.
That is why they will make the car here. Yes or yes, or is there plan B?
No. There is only plan A. We have to build an electric car here in Martorell. We keep making small combustion cars, yes, we can go on for a while, two, three years, and then what? If you don’t transform now, you won’t have future opportunities. It would be much easier to do it later, because until 2028 about 70% of the market will continue to be combustion. But you have to take the leap now.
Will it be an affordable model?
We put Spain on wheels 70 years ago and now we will do it on electric wheels. For that car to be competitive, you have to have the entire value chain. If not, it is not profitable. The price must be between 20-25,000 euros. Then there will be versions with more features, battery types, autonomies, body styles. It is a small four-meter platform designed for various brands of the group that can use it.
Electrification and digitization. Do you work on the subject of data?
The future is not just making money selling cars, but with the subject of data, connectivity, there are many ideas. A new Leon is more connected. The data exists, it is there, the question is what do you do with that data. We have Seat CODE, for software development. The idea is not to do it ourselves but to work with others who know about it.
In this new economy you must share more, be more generous. We know cars and there are very powerful technology companies. Why can’t we work together? The solution for the future is to forge alliances between companies.
In the first 30 years of my career the car evolved a lot, but it was only evolution. Now it is revolution. Everything changes very fast. And in the revolution, either you follow it, or you make it. We want to do it.
The electrification of Martorell, in what phase is it?
We are in the first phase, which was to invest in the new León in which we have put more than a billion in its development, from the whole family. We have already started to electrify production in Martorell with plug-in hybrids. Here we see a lot of demand in Formentor, for example, with 50% of the volume.
We are making electrified cars in Martorell. It was a very important challenge at the technology level, and all at a time when the coronavirus hit us all. The key to the future will be in the qualification and training of workers. We have already started training. Young people are the future. We have to promote dual training. Mechatronic. We lack people like that at this time of launching electric models.
What do you need?
We have to have our own training offer. It is a great opportunity. We are going to hire 500 young people to train them in electric car development. It is worth investing in it because it is an opportunity with 40% of youth unemployment.
A new mechatronics training at the factory level, also at the technical center level. We already have a training center that will grow a lot. It is one of the issues that I want to discuss with the Government of Catalonia. Training is a bet of the country. After the pandemic, we have an opportunity to transform, not just to recover.
How is the relationship with the employees?
There is a lot of trust with the union representatives, especially in this project for the electrification and transformation of Martorell. We all work together. The flexibility they have had and continue to have is admirable. We will work in August, which has never been done. We have asked for the effort and the people have done it.
The brand stood out for how it overcame the closure due to the pandemic …
We are one of the companies that have taken the most measures in health occupational safety not only in the country, but in the Volkwagen group itself. I am super proud of the work of Dr. Patricia Such. What it has done is ‘benchmak’. We test all employees.
We have continued working, with total security. We offered help to vaccinate the population near Martorell, even with the trucks of the competition team to other areas, but we are still waiting for a response from the Generalitat. We would have liked to find a more diligent response to the selfless and supportive collaboration of Seat and its workers.
We can do things very quickly, and that helps the group as well. We are a small brand that is agile and can experiment, scale it up, and pass it on to other brands. We are like a speedboat in a group of ocean liners.
How is it going with micromobility?
Our intention is to establish Seat MÓ the brand, and the business model. It is the first objective, to make this first phase profitable, and the team is doing it. It has a great impact. Get more and more thrust. Now with the vaccination, people will move more, tourists will come who will need to move during their stay, and we can offer this mobility service.
In any modality. Buy mobility, and time, in various formats, because only with ‘sharing’ it is difficult to obtain profitability. You have to have a customer, data and that this customer goes from ‘sharing’ to subscription and one day buy. You have to teach, grow, before taking another step.
Only with scooters and motorcycles?
From bike to car, and if there is something in between that makes sense it is worth considering. We will be on two wheels and four wheels, which until now are cars, like the electric one that we want to do in Martorell, which may be a part of that mobility offer, but it may be something else – referring to the Seat MiniMÓ.
Is the change from combustion to electrification safe?
The disruption from the fuel car to the electric car will give rise to new brands. There will be new opportunities, in China new brands have been born, or the example of Tesla. Cupra is a new brand and has that space in that moment of change.
You already have an electric. Will El Born be released soon?
Yes, in four weeks. It is very important for us because it is the first 100% electric car, it is a 100% Cupra, with a fantastic design inside and out, sporty in terms of handling, it is a very good car and with a range of up to 500 kilometers.
We are going to seek new avenues for the future, not only with the car but also with the distribution system. We will launch El Born with an innovative agency model. We want to boost online sales. In addition we are also studying the subscription system.
How do you face your presidency in such a special moment in every way, the pandemic, electrification, connectivity …?
I have desire, enthusiasm and experience. Seat is my destiny. When I came to Barcelona five years ago it was to help Seat grow and be profitable. I came from commercial vice president. And those five years have flown by. When I arrived in 1991 I didn’t even imagine it. But it was my destiny.
I feel like one more Barcelona. I came to stay. It was not only a matter of coming to work to make the company profitable, but working to transform it. And make sure that in the future Seat is still here, being a reference in the electric car. It is such a challenge that it will take time but I am committed on a personal level. I have always felt at home. It is not one more step. We are in a moment of disruption and at 55 I have the energy to do it.
Barcelona has always lived associated with the car. That year it celebrates a new edition of the Automobile Barcelona show. How do you see it?
I think the concept must change. Geneva was my favorite fair because you started the year there and everything was optimism, positive, energy. Everyone was convinced to do great things and I really liked it. This year it has not been done. The past either. I see the future of the show as positive, if it evolves and changes, yes, of course.
It has to be more than a car exhibition, nowadays the digital world is so strong that it is not only necessary to see the firsts because you see them online, we will have to offer more and offer something that cannot be given digitally, which are experiences .
Excitement and entertainment. And if they are capable of offering more than just exhibiting cars, the Barcelona show makes sense. I would love to close a circuit to test the cars in Montjuïc, it would be incredible. Digitally that cannot be done.