WE all know how David Bowie has inspired creative types all over the world.
He was an influence on music, cinema, and the arts. He was a genius.
But I never expected to find out that he was shaping the future of automobiles, even after his death.
Wayne Griffiths is the global boss of Seat and Cupra and he lives by the following mantra: “I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise I won’t bother you.”
If you haven’t heard that before, it’s the classic Bowie.
Griffiths, 55, said: “There were a lot of things that motivated me from David Bowie.
“Especially, that quote. I used it on my 50th birthday.
“There are clever scammers who say, ‘Oh, we have a plan and we know exactly how this is going to work’ or, ‘We have our brand strategy and this will work. like this’.
“If you write the book before you finish the story, it will be boring because you will be based on experience and the past.
“We will write the Cupra story when we finish it. Final. When is it completed.
“Because if you determine before you know exactly where you’re going, you’re not going to do anything really great.
“Bowie is remarkable because he is always reinventing himself. He is always contemporary.
“He doesn’t do things that people like, but there are always some people who love him. I’ve been to a lot of Bowie’s concerts at the Birmingham NEC and to London.”
Now let’s look at the remarkable rise of Cupra.
Four years ago, Cupra meant Faster Seats. Like Volkswagen’s GTI or Ford’s ST.
But Griffiths reinvented Cupra as an indie brand that has won an “Oscar” in cars for being sharp, cool, provocative, and a little rebellious.
“When we did a design presentation, if everyone liked the car, then we did something wrong,” says Griffiths.
“We wanted to make cars that represent something.
“So we might have some people say, ‘I don’t like it. I think it’s too provocative’ or, ‘It goes too far’.
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“But if having three or four younger people in the room is our target group, the next generation, with the mindset of, ‘I like this, this is great’, then that drives us. further.”
The first Pure Cupra – not a Re-shredded Chair – was Cupra Formentor.
That proved to be a huge hit with customers as well as e-magazines, thanks to its bold and classy design and brilliant real-world operability.
And who doesn’t love the Space Invaders co-logo?
The all-electric Cupra Born is due next March, and Griffiths has confirmed the Tavascan, a larger, battery-powered SUV, will be ready by 2024.
Griffiths and his team are also leading the development of low-cost urban electric vehicles for the VW Group.
All versions – for VW, Skoda, Seat and Cupra – will be produced in Spain from 2025.
The Cupra UrbanRebel concept has a bit of a stretch with the animated rear wing but at least it gives us a glimpse of what’s to come.
In fact, on the subject of wings, Mancunian Griffiths deserves credit for making Cupra fly despite nearly two years of hibernation and semiconductor problems.
Sales topped 70,000 last year, 10,000 in the UK and the boss is expected to double by 2022.
He told me: “I said to my team, ‘You can react in one of two ways to this Covid disruption. You can take it as a risk, stand still and try to defend your position, or see it as an opportunity’.
“We saw it as an opportunity – to accelerate electrification, which was later in our plans at the time, and launch a new brand.
“Cupra is a new brand. It doesn’t have any legacy. When we launched Cupra three years ago, a lot of people said, ‘These guys are crazy’ and, ‘This is just a marketing thing. There isn’t any substance behind it to make it work. ‘
“It worked. The only thing we got wrong was our level of ambition. Very large volume.
“We think the next generation of mobile users are looking for different solutions.
“It’s not just about mobility, pay to move, not owning a car, but finding new brands.
“You can see that with the incredible success of so many emerging brands in the electric era.
“Obviously Tesla, but you see what Nio is doing, Polestar, Lynk & Co, a lot of them are from China.
“I think the next generation of customers are looking for a new answer, maybe a new brand and looking for a different brand from what their grandparents or fathers were oriented and a brand that can give them something more than just heritage or prestige, a brand that can say something about what they stand for as a person.”
An example of that is recycled marine plastic used in Cupra was born.
“If you live in Spain and go to the beach, you see all those plastic bottles floating in the ocean,” Griffiths said.
“To know that we’re taking these plastic bottles out of the ocean to recycle them for our Birthstone chairs, that makes the car really special.
When we do a design presentation, if everyone likes the car, we’re doing it wrong.
“It gives people a good feeling. Not only does the car look great, not only is it zero-emissions, but you’re doing something good for the environment with recycled content.
“Above all, we wanted to show with Born that electric cars are not just a logical thing, but that they can be sexy, engaging and fun to drive.”
There are many other interesting things to come from Cupra.
Griffiths hinted at subscription services, sports, and show tickets for “Cupra Tribe” members and a few other things that I promised I wouldn’t cover for now.
“I like the idea of a world of luxury,” says Griffiths. We are looking at other products as well as cars for Cupra. ”
We like Griffiths. He is a meritorious man. He doesn’t have a Cupra tattoo, like one of his lieutenants, but he’s certainly not boring.
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