BARCELONA, Spain - Spanish carmaker Seat is pondering a possible leap into the U.S. market. But it would not happen for at least five years.
"North America would be a sensible, strategic move," Seat President Andreas Schleef told Automotive News' sister publication Automobilwoche.
Seat is part of Volkswagen Group's Audi division. Seat was once Spain's low-cost brand. VW has transformed it into a sporty brand in recent years.
Schleef said Seat's cars could be built at VW's Puebla, Mexico, plant and sold through Audi's U.S. sales network.
Seat already sells cars in Mexico. The company is looking at the U.S. market because of the growing buying power of Hispanic consumers, Schleef says.
He said Seat would not enter the American market before the end of the decade because its models do not meet U.S. regulatory standards.
Seat would need a new model if it went to the United States, Schleef said. That could be a "lifestyle" station wagon using Audi technology.
Seat began selling cars in Mexico in 2001 and sold about 25,000 last year.
Separately, Pedro Catena Pou, export market director for the Barcelona-based carmaker, said Mexico and Canada are higher priorities than the United States.
"We have European cars for European-thinking customers.' " Pou said. "We are quite happy in Mexico. This is a logical step for us.
"Maybe before we look at the States, we would jump to Canada. With our TDi (diesel) technology and European design, there are a lot of potential customers in Quebec. We are not inventing megagalactic things. We are taking a step-by-step approach."
A spokesman at Audi of America Inc. in Auburn Hills, Mich. said he was not aware of plans to launch the Seat brand in the United States.
Bradford Wernle contributed to this report