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VW Bringing Electric Performance Cupra Brand to U.S.

by | March 22, 2024

It’s already announced plans to bring the long-dormant Scout brand back to life. Now, Volkswagen will introduce its European-based Cupra, to the U.S. market, the performance division’s CEO says. It will debut later this decade with two all-electric utility vehicles.

Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths

Cupra boss Wayne Griffiths wants to expand globally, starting with the U.S.

Volkswagen has plenty of brands, from entry-level Skoda and SEAT to exotics Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti. Only a handful of those have been available in the U.S. until now, but that’s about to change. The Scout brand is due to come back from the dead in 2026 with a focus on off-roading. Now, another VW marque, Cupra is planning to jump across the Atlantic.

The all-electric, performance-focused Cupra will arrive late in the decade, CEO Wayne Griffiths said during a media event sponsored by sibling brand Seat. It will arrive with two battery-electric crossovers, at least according to the current plan.

Griffiths has been talking about taking Cupra “global” for more than a year. “But when we talk global, when we say bigger, we mean, above all, the United States of America,” he said on Thursday.

Cupra who?

2018 Cupra Ateca

Cupra debuted as a standalone brand in 2018 with the Ateca.

The name, Cupra, has been around for millennia, apparently tracing back to the Greek Kupria, another name for Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility. That would seem an appropriate link considering how fast sales have been growing for the automaker. But, in reality, it’s simply short for “Cup Racing,” and was first used in 1966 for a version of SEAT’s Ibiza model.

Over the decades to follow, SEAT launched a series of sporty hatchbacks using the badge. It was finally spun off as a standalone brand in 2018. Its first offering, the Cupra Ateca, debuted that October.

Since then, it has focused on a mix of hot hatches and sporty crossovers. It has announced plans to go all-electric and the marque’s first EV, the Cupra Born, was introduced in February 2021. It was followed by Cupra Tavascan in April of 2023.

Two EVs coming

Cupra Formentor

An all-electric version of the Cupra Formentor will be one of the two debut models coming to the U.S.

Cupra is targeting “young, progressive customers,” and all its future models will take a sporty bent, officials have indicated.

The first product formally identified for the American market will be an all-electric version of the current Cupra Formentor. Griffiths didn’t disclose much about the second model, other than saying it will be a “bigger, electric crossover SUV.”

“We know it’s always been a matter of being well prepared and doing it right if you go to the U.S.,” Griffiths said. “So, after testing the brand, we know our cars will reflect what customers are looking for in the United States.”

More EV News

New distribution model

Cupra Dealership in Spain

A standalone Cupra dealership being built in Spain. The automaker may adopt a different distribution model in the U.S. (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia.)

The EV era has triggered numerous changes in the long-static auto industry. A number of new brands, from Tesla to Lucid, have been launched – though plenty of others have short-circuited. And Tesla has shown that the traditional marketing and distribution model isn’t locked in stone.

Automotive News reported that Cupra will develop its own distribution model, though it said the automaker has yet to reveal details.

Brand boss Griffiths did, however, indicate Cupra will likely launch first along the so-called “Smile Belt,” along the East and West Coasts and the Sunbelt region where sporty models and EVs currently have their strongest demand.

Separately, Griffiths indicated Cupra is looking to “leverage synergies within the brand group core by producing this crossover SUV in Volkswagen factories in the North American region including Mexico.” Such an approach could have a number of advantages, especially if the current U.S. EV incentives program remains in place as it offers buyers up to $7,500 in tax credits – but only if the vehicle one purchases meets strict local sourcing requirements.


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