SEAT, S.A. (English pronunciation: [ˈsɛːat], "say-at"; Spanish pronunciation: [ˈseat]) is a Spanish automobile manufacturer founded in 1950 by the Instituto Nacional de Industria (INI), with initial Fiat assistance, and now a wholly owned subsidiary of the German Volkswagen Group. Its headquarters are at Martorell near Barcelona, Spain, and is legally inscribed in the official Mercantile Register of Barcelona, book 23662, folio 1, sheet B-56-855.
SEAT is an acronym for Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, or in English Spanish Passenger Car Company.
Initially, SEAT manufactured rebadged Fiat models which differed very little visually from the products of the Italian parent. The SEAT Panda (later restyled as SEAT Marbella) for example was based on the Fiat Panda. The SEAT 600, based on Fiat 600, was the first car for many Spanish families, and became a symbol of the Spanish Miracle.
By 1967 SEAT was Spain's largest auto-maker. In that year Fiat increased its holding in the company from 6% to 36%. At the same time the share held by the government holding agency was reduced from a controlling 51% to 32%. The remaining 32% was taken by six major banks. Although not a majority owner, Fiat now was seen to control the business: the deal also included various undertakings by Fiat to help in the growth of SEAT, and with the development of a new model (possibly the SEAT 133).
The first car under the new SEAT logo without Fiat involvement appeared in 1982, and was called the SEAT Ronda. This was a restyled Fiat Ritmo, and sparked a lawsuit from Fiat against SEAT, as the former claimed the car was still too similar to the Ritmo. The then president of SEAT, Juan Miguel Antoñanzas, showed a Ronda to the press with all the parts different from the Fiat Ritmo painted in bright yellow, to highlight the differences. This ended the dispute. Rumour at the time had it that Fiat was angry because the Ronda restyling was in fact too close to their own planned restyling for the Fiat Ritmo, which they had to scrap.
After the withdrawal of Fiat in 1981, the Volkswagen Group subsidiary Audi AG signed a cooperation agreement with SEAT, becoming the major shareholder in 1986, and 100% owner of the company in 1990. During the mid 2000s, the ownership of the SEAT company was realigned, with Audi AG transferring ownership of SEAT to the top-tier holding company Volkswagen Group.
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