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Creative Creative Works Automotive

‘We’re the unconventional challengers’: Cupra on how it is attracting a younger car buyer


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

May 14, 2024 | 5 min read

The Drum catches up with the Spanish carmaker in Madrid as it showcases its latest models and fashion collaborations.

Cupra design show in Madrid

Cupra design event in Madrid / Cupra

In the grand Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid, Cupra held a unique visual show that encapsulated the importance the auto brand places on design, innovation and collaboration.

The event, which was ostensibly to premiere two new vehicle models, also saw it announce that Cupra has created its own standalone design house.

In a room filled with large screens that formed a suspended catwalk, virtual models embodying the nine principles of the brand’s vision appeared to walk in front of the audience.

The Barcelona-based car maker is a subsidiary of parent company Seat S.A, which is part of the Volkswagen group, but Cupra considers itself a challenger in the competitive automotive market. “We are new, we are six years old,” explains Jorge Diez, the brand’s head of design. “We’re imagining a future without any boundaries.”

Since launching in 2018, the brand has delivered more than 600,000 vehicles, with 56,600 cars sold in the first quarter of this year.

“We are always talking about design; it’s a way of being,” adds Diez. “It’s about provoking emotion through an object.”

The in-house team will be responsible for the brand’s merchandise and will also work with companies that align with Cupra’s philosophy. At the Madrid show, collections with sustainable jewelry brand Mam and lighting studio Marset were shown to highlight this collaborative approach.

“We’re the unconventional challengers,” says global head of communications Cecilia Taieb. “The way we do things is completely different. We’re a bit of a rebellious brand.”

The marketer explains that the generation it is trying to reach doesn’t care as much about status; it’s all about connecting with a product.

Cupra design event

“We don’t follow the rules,” she continues. “With the whole industry, there’s a setup of the kind of pictures you need to do at a certain point of the car. And I always tell my team, no, just shoot a beautiful image. Who says there is a protocol?”

There is no playbook for Cupra; the team believes in doing things their own way. Taieb says that the industry is in a totally transformative stage, with the move toward electric cars more important than ever. Now is the time to be bold, she says.

Its different take on automotive marketing has enabled the brand to attract younger buyers. “A first-time buyer of a new car in the industry is 55 years old. That’s shocking, right?” she adds. “Our average is 43. So, it’s 10 years younger already. We’re a brand for the next generation.”

Pushing boundaries is key for the car brand, but how far can it take the innovative approach? Taieb says there are five people within the company who make all the decisions for the brand, that it’s quite stripped back but always coherent.

What excites the marketer is the possibilities with the new design house; she looks forward to bringing more brands together. “It shouldn’t be only about marketing; it should be about whether we have the same values. Do we really understand each other and what we want to do and how we want to live in this world?”

For example, Cupra made the decision not to make red cars anymore. It’s not a color within its brand identity.

Taieb understands that the way her team thinks and presents themselves has earned it a reputation. ”’Oh, they’re Cupra, they’re the mad ones,’ you know? It’s because the automotive industry is very traditional, but the truth is, we’re very authentic. Some people look at us like the young ones. We’re not young; we’re young at heart. I’m 47. My boss is 57. We just have more of a contemporary mindset.”

That way of thinking was apparent when the brand teamed up with Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalia, who, coincidently, grew up right beside the Cupra plant in Barcelona. As a popstar, Rosalia also does things her own way, which is why Cupra felt she was a good match.

“Also, we’re a very small brand,” adds Taieb. ”We’re not going to be able to pay the same as big brands, so it generally needs to be an interest from both sides to work together.”

Being authentic and coherent are two of the most important words for Cupra, she concludes. “We’re one of the fastest-growing car brands in Europe, but we’re keeping the decision-making group small, even in terms of marketing.

“We need to continue to keep our own essence, trying to push and push and take smart risks. That’s what we want to continue doing, to not be scared, but not to lose ourselves either.”

Creative Creative Works Automotive

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