SEAT's gas future for Cupra?
SEAT's Cupra sub-brand isn't doing as well as it should in the sales charts. Could CNG be the future?
Seat is not making the money it should. The man charged with fixing the company is Welshman James Muir, former head of Mazda Motor Europe and the first properly hands-on Seat chairman in years. Mindful of both environmental pressure and the bottom line, he finds himself considering the future of the Cupra sub-brand.
'Not enough people buy them,' he says. 'I need to make it something special and different from all the other hot hatches, to give people a reason to buy.'
One answer, Muir thinks, is methane. Currently available, sparsely, for car use as CNG (compressed natural gas), it can easily be generated using natural, renewable, carbon-neutral resources. 'We're not talking about fields of biofuel crops which use land better used for food production,' he says, 'but plant matter grown on land that's otherwise useless. Willow grows well in marshland and it's a very good methane source.'
The point about methane is that an engine running on it produces considerably more power than a petrol engine, because it can run at a higher compression ratio. And burning methane produces little CO2, because there is just one carbon atom in each methane molecule.
Obviously there's the hefty problem of establishing an eco-friendly methane supply, but the idea of basing a performance brand around this power-rich fuel is an intriguing one. Don't expect Seat Cupra CH3s just yet, but it could happen.