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How Cupra might beat Volkswagen and Skoda siblings to Australia's EV market: Spain's Born electric car to launch soon - with Tavascan and Rebel to follow

The Cupra Born is increasingly likely to become Volkswagen Group Australia’s first all-electric model.

After splitting away from Seat in 2018 to become its own standalone Spanish brand, Cupra began putting down roots in Europe ahead of its global expansion, with Australia to serve as its Asia-Pacific testbed from next year, when it could become the first Volkswagen Group member to offer an all-electric model locally.

Speaking to Australian journalists, Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths stressed that the emerging brand would face challenges in supplying its models locally, including “cars that have not been developed up to now for Australia”, such as the recently revealed all-electric Born small hatchback.

“The Cupra Born will be a challenge to get that car ready, but it’s something I’m committed to doing, and my organisation here is committed to doing,” he said. “Because without the cars, there’s no point in coming [to Australia].

“And we can’t just come with the Cupra Formentor. We need to have the Cupra electric cars – the Cupra Born, the Cupra Tavascan and the Cupra UrbanRebel – ready for Australia and ready for the future.”

As reported, Cupra will enter the Australian market in the second quarter of 2022 with the Leon small hatchback and Ateca and Formentor small SUVs, with the former and latter to be available with three turbo-petrol engines and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain.

While the Leon and Formentor PHEVs are significant in their own rights, for being Volkswagen Group Australia’s (VGA) first hybrid models, how far Cupra plans to take its electrification push locally is arguably of greater significance.

For reference, the Born is closely related to the Volkswagen ID.3, which is yet to be confirmed for low-priority Australia alongside its sibling, the ID.4 mid-size SUV, with VGA now hoping for a 2023 launch date for its all-electric ID family, opening the door for Cupra to get in first.

Mr Griffiths said: “For us, Australia is more important than many other markets … so we put our resources into fixing the electric car for Australia as an objective, as a priority.

“I think Volkswagen Group and Skoda, because they’re already global and have a lot of other markets, they probably don’t give Australia the priority, but for us, (it’s) high priority.”

Cupra Tavascan concept Cupra Tavascan concept

According to Mr Griffiths, Cupra is doing all it can “to get a solution for the Cupra Born”, with it a priority in its 2022 development budget, adding that “the issues are not around emissions or around homologation”.

“The issues are around the online connectivity of the cars and the system behind that, but there are workarounds that we’re working on now in a very pragmatic way, to have the cars ready to work in Australia,” he said.

“The cars are safe; the cars are homologated. It’s just the online connectivity that’s a task, but even if we have to go with the first cars offline, that’s what we will do.”

That said, Cupra is currently working on some specific local testing of the Born, which could bring its Australian launch date forward, with Mr Griffiths hoping for it to arrive locally by the end of next year or start of 2023.

Cupra UrbanRebel concept Cupra UrbanRebel concept

Mr Griffiths added that Australia “is our first step with Cupra going global, and we need to make it work”, with the widespread availability of its all-electric models a key to success.

“If we don’t make it work, then I have a problem going elsewhere,” he said. “And as the first step in the Asia-Pacific region, we want to use this as a blueprint … looking at Japan, and also Korea, as a next step.”

As for the rest of Cupra’s yet-to-be-revealed all-electric model line-up, the aforementioned Tavascan mid-size SUV and UrbanRebel light hatchback were previewed by concepts shown at the 2019 Frankfurt and 2021 Munich motor shows respectively.

The Tavascan is related to the ID.4 and is set to enter production in 2024, while the UrbanRebel is based on the upcoming new ‘short’ version of Volkswagen Group’s shared all-electric MEB platform, with its release set for 2025, when it’s expected to be simply named Rebel.