The incoming Cupra brand has found its first Australian market brand director in-house, appointing current Volkswagen Passenger Australia sales general manager Ben Wilks.
Mr Wilks is a 12-year veteran of Volkswagen Australia, having worked across numerous product, sales, and marketing roles in both the passenger and commercial areas of the market. He was an Audi training manager prior to this.
“Ben has been a valued and trusted member of VGA’s executive team for many years now; first as general manager of Volkswagen Passenger Vehicles’ marketing department, and then as its head of sales,” said Volkswagen Group managing director Michael Bartsch.
To catch you up, the Volkswagen Group earlier this year confirmed its plan to bring its Cupra brand to Australia in 2022.
Once merely a performance trim level used on Seat (that’s Volkswagen’s Spanish brand, like a sportier take on Czech company Skoda), Cupra was spun-off into its own sub-brand in 2018. It sells fettled versions of Seat products but is also offering an increasing number of Cupra-exclusive models.
“I can announce that next year we will start our operations in Australia as a key move towards expanding in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia is a young market and Cupra is a young brand,” said Cupra president Wayne Griffiths at the time.
“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.”
This makes Australia a beachhead for the upstart brand’s global expansion beyond its European heartland, though it has already announced its entry into New Zealand too.
Cupra hasn’t detailed the products it’ll be offering, but there’s no shortage of choice.
There’s the Cupra Born electric hatch based on the Volkswagen ID.3; the Cupra Formentor crossover that comes optionally as a turbo-petrol-four, a PHEV, or with the Audi RS3’s turbo five-cylinder engine; plus tuned versions of the Seat Leon small hatch and wagon and Seat Ateca small SUV.
The company will also put into production the Tavascan concept revealed in 2019, an electric performance SUV based on Volkswagen’s MEB all-electric architecture.
While Volkswagen and Skoda are not expected to begin offering EVs in Australia until about 2024, Cupra’s lower scale and premium positioning potentially opens the door for it to follow Audi’s lead and go earlier.
If it also lobbed the Formentor PHEV, it’d be the only VW Group product with this drivetrain type in Australia.
Cupra products won’t be joined on the boats by regular, Seat-badged models, which were last seen in Australia in 1999.
Cupra isn’t the only European sub-brand hitting Australian shores soon. Volvo is also launching its Polestar brand by year’s end, having appointed separate management led by managing director Samantha Johnson, a former Volvo and Harley-Davison director.