The Volkswagen-owned Cupra brand is the latest automotive giant to experiment with non-negotiable fixed-prices for new cars in Australia.
Cupra cars will be sold with non-negotiable fixed prices from July this year, starting with a dozen showrooms across mainland Australia.
Cupra, a Volkswagen-owned Spanish brand – and offshoot of Seat – will launch in Australia from the middle of this year initially with a hatchback and two SUVs, with a choice of turbo petrol and plug-in hybrid power across the line-up.
The Cupra Born electric hot hatch is expected to join the rest of the Australian Cupra line-up by the end of this year; testing of the vehicle has already begun on local roads.
It is Cupra’s intention for much of the buying process to be completed online, before the vehicle handover at one of a dozen showrooms on mainland Australia. Outlets in Tasmania are due to be added.
“We’re not an online business … we’re just aiming to make the boring and annoying bits (of the new-car buying process) a bit better,” said Cupra Australia boss Ben Wilks.
“(The showrooms) will be in every capital city on the mainland. We’ll have a few outlets in both Sydney and Melbourne, we’ll be represented in Adelaide, Perth, and Queensland as well.”
While Cupra showrooms in Australia are yet to be named, the company says each outlet is already part of the Volkswagen, Audi, or Skoda dealer network.
“All of them share an association with the Volkswagen Group, but also involvement in some more bespoke brands and some more interesting brands. They understand what level of commitment is required to reach an enthusiast audience,” said Mr Wilks.
Showroom operators will receive a commission fee from Cupra Australia for each vehicle sale and handover – but prices will be non-negotiable.
“The price is clear, and it’s not a different offer for everybody who walks in. We don’t want the customer to think: ‘Well, does someone else who walks in two hours later get a different deal to what I get?’ It’s also a good way to manage limited stock of in-demand cars,” said Mr Wilks.
“Australians have shown they’re prepared to pay a reasonable premium if the product and the service delivers. And they shouldn’t be worried about who came in after them, if they got a better deal or not.”
The Cupra Australia boss declined to share sales forecasts, but indicated it will initially be a niche brand.
“We are not necessarily here as the Cupra brand to be liked by everyone,” said Mr Wilks. “That’s not what our brand is about. But we do want to be loved by some.
“The industry is facing a lot of restrictions in terms of production. What I would say, though, is that the Australian launch for Cupra is strategically important.
“It’s our first big step outside of Europe and South America. It’s our first big step into the Asia-Pacific region. And I’m quite confident that we’re going to be able to bring the production we need to be able to meet demand.”
The Cupra Australia boss said the company is “already sitting on a few thousand registrations of interest.”
While drive-away prices for Cupra cars will be non-negotiable, final costs will vary nationally according to differences in stamp duties in different states across Australia.
“We’ll talk about drive-away pricing closer to the launch, but where there’s quite a substantial difference due to the different stamp duty regulations, those substantial differences need to be taken into account.”
Initially, the Cupra range in Australia will comprise the Leon hot hatch and Formentor SUV – both with a choice of turbo petrol or plug-in hybrid power – and the Ateca SUV available solely with with turbo petrol power.
The Cupra Born is due to join the Australian line-up by the end of this year and has already commenced testing on local roads.
While Cupra plans to shift to electric power for most global markets by 2030, the decision to offer only electric models in Australia by the same deadline is yet to be determined.
“We have to evaluate where (the 2030 electric target for Cupra) sits for Australia,” said Mr Wilks.
“Our model mix has quite a high skew towards electrification, but that’s towards the end of the decade. We have to see what happens in Australia in terms of emerging legislation and, ideally, a national alignment of regulations (for electric cars).”
Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in late 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.