Dubbed as the car that saved Seat, and having sold over 5 million units since it first rolled out of the rundown Barcelona factory in 1984, the Seat Ibiza had a lot to celebrate on its 30th birthday last week.
Rather more than simply a best-selling model: it was the car that actually saved the company following the withdrawal from Seat of the Italian car manufacturer Fiat in 1984.
Now, over its three decades of existence it has become the brand’s top-selling model.
The car was originally a pieced together model, with Italian design and a German body and a 44 horsepower engine, which cost 825,000 pesetas – close to €5,000, around €15,600 today. The basic model is currently on sale for €8,900.
The plant itself really was an antiquated construction. It employed over 33,000 workers, all at risk of injury as its cars were dragged around the building on chains. Indeed any modern day, self respecting, health and safety officer would have a fit at some of the practices carried out in the factory on a day to day basis.
The building had sticky floors, it was freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer as the concept of work-related hazards was not in the managers’ dictionary back then.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen was considering the purchase of a Spanish car brand.
Vicenç Aguilera, former director of Seat’s Technical Center and currently president of the Automotion Cluster of Catalonia, joined Seat in 1982.
“The Ibiza had been on the drawing board for a year, and it was a way to keep Volkswagen interested in us,” he recalls. The German company finally bought Seat on December 30, 1985.
The Ibiza was a patchwork car. Its design was Italian, its body German, and its engine was put together in such a way by Porsche’s engineers that it would adapt to Seat’s existing technology at the Barcelona plant.
The icing on the cake was the name someone came up with for the car: Ibiza, the Mediterranean island that conjured up visions of the sea, parties and youthful abandon. And, as an added bonus, the car also came with an unknown luxury at the time: air conditioning.
From the outset the car did very well, and in just a short while it had managed to pull Seat back from the brink as the company began seeing a future for itself once again.
“The Ibiza represented survival, it was a vital contribution,” said Aguilera.
A brand new factory was built in Martorell, in 1993, the new home for the second, and subsequent, generation Ibiza’s.
The car also got immediate international exposure. Of the five million units sold over the last three decades, 3.5 million were shifted outside Spain in Italy, France, Germany, Britain, Portugal, Israel and Mexico. Exports in 2013 represented 85 percent of all Ibiza sales.
These days, the Martorell plants (10,000 employees, or 15,000 including Seat Components) are clean like an industrial kitchen, there is background music, and the car parts spend just three hours on the production line before they are complete. Both men and women work here now, as opposed to the early days, when female employees could only do cable work or sew the upholstery.
The Ibiza joins a select club of cars that can boast about having made it to 30, and which also includes the Volkswagen Golf, the Opel Corsa and the Ford Fiesta.
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/43603/
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