SEAT is celebrating a milestone birthday. The first SEAT 600, the most important model for mobility in Spain, is 60 years old today. 27 June 1957 was the registration date of the first unit of a model that, until the arrival of the Ibiza, was the brand’s most iconic vehicle. Manufactured in the Barcelona Zona Franca factory, the launch of the 600 coincided with the inauguration of the SEAT Apprentices School. Today, 60 years and 2,600 students later, the company’s centre is still training future brand employees.
Seven years after SEAT’s foundation, and following the launch of a model for the well-heeled class such as the 1400, the 600 was truly revolutionary. It was aimed at the country’s emerging middle class and soon became a runaway success. In order to fulfil such high demand, SEAT progressively increased production, going from 40 cars per day in early 1958 to 240 by late 1964. These figures, which were record-setting at the time in Spain, are a long way from the 700 Ibiza units that SEAT currently makes every day. From 1957 to 1973, SEAT sold 794,406 units of the 600.
The starting list price of the 600 in 1957 was 65,000 pesetas of the time (equivalent to more than 18,000 euros today), three and a half years of the Spanish population’s then average salary. The industrialisation of the model revolutionised the production system, generated a strong components industry in Spain and helped make it more affordable. In this sense, when the last unit of the 600 was made on 3 August 1973, it cost 77,291 pesetas (around 7,700 euros today), the average salary of nine months of the time. Although it was almost exclusively sold in Spain, the 600 was the first model that SEAT exported. It was sold in Colombia in 1965, followed by countries such as Finland, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands or Greece. SEAT exported around 80,000 units of the 600, which was only 10% of the model’s total output volume. By comparison, today SEAT exports 81% of its vehicles to more than 80 countries and is Spain’s major industrial exporter, totalling close to seven billion euros annually, or 2.8% of all Spanish exports. In addition, the company contributes to the country’s wealth with nearly 1% of GDP. Throughout this year, the company is scheduling several events to pay tribute to the 600, which will culminate on 9 September at the Barcelona-Catalunya track, where SEAT hopes to establish a Guinness record by gathering 600 units of the 600. For the moment, there are already 600 vehicles registered for the feat and a long waiting list with many more.
If the 600 was behind the mobility of an entire nation, the Ibiza catapulted SEAT into Europe. At nearly 5.5 million units sold, SEAT’s best-seller enabled the brand to expand its business internationally since its launch in 1984. Today, Germany is SEAT’s main market, and other countries such as Mexico, Turkey and Israel are on the list of the company’s top importers. The fifth generation Ibiza is now on sale. Built in Martorell on the new MQB A0 platform, the Ibiza is the first model to use this platform and will continue to boost sales of the brand.
The new Arona, which was presented yesterday, is SEAT’s first foray into the compact crossover segment. Built on the same platform as the Ibiza, it will be available in dealerships in November, making it SEAT’s fourth launch in the last 18 months as part of the biggest product offensive in company history. SEAT has invested 900 million euros on both models, and with the Arona will increase its market coverage to 75%. The Arona will also help boost SEAT sales even more, which from January to May this year grew by 13.9%.