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BUSINESS

SEAT expected to miss out on Volkswagen model

VW Spanish unit's sales increased last year

The new year has brought in some good news and some bad news for Volkswagen's Spanish unit SEAT. The good news was that sales last year climbed by 10.6 percent from 2012 to 355,000 units, the highest figure in the past five years. As a result, the temporary labor force adjustment plan that came into effect in September of last year is to be withdrawn.

 The bad news is that the company's Martorell plant in the Barcelona area is not expected to be assigned the production of Volkswagen's urban SUV model.

Although the company insists that no decision has been formally taken, the head of SEAT's works committee, Matías Carnero of the UGT labor union, accepts that production of the model will be awarded to the Skoda plant in the Czech Republic. "It's bad news both from the point of view of the stability of Martorell as well as its prestige and position within the group," he said.

Carnero argued that the clearest signal that the Skoda plant was going to get the SUV model was that the management of the plant there "has turned the screws on the workforce, freezing salaries and demanding higher productivity and more manufacturing days."

A consultant in the sector, who asked not to be named, agreed with him. "Nowadays, if they don't ask you for anything in exchange, it's because they're not going to give you anything," he said. The consultant noted that SEAT had just got rid of 200 office workers, which does not give the impression that it is gearing up for more investment.

Sales last year to Germany, SEAT's biggest market, were up 20.3 percent over a year earlier at 76,600 units. Growth in sales in Spain was 6 percent, with 58,900 units sold, while in Britain, SEAT's third-biggest market, sales were up 17 percent at 45,700.

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