It’s been 70 years since SEAT was founded on May 9, 1950, the company that helped democratize mobility in Spain and beyond.
Over the past seven decades, SEAT has undergone a profound transformation and demonstrated a constant capacity for reinvention, which has enabled it to remain a benchmark throughout its history.
Formally established on May 9, 1950, after an agreement was signed between the National Institute of Industry, with 51% of the share capital (600 million pesetas, which today would be €3.6 million); seven large Spanish banks (42%) and the Italian manufacturer Fiat (7%), which provided technical advice and the production license for its models.
When originally created, the company’s name was Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, S.A., but was officially changed to SEAT in the 1990s.
When production began in 1953, just 925 people worked on the line. Today, SEAT employs more than 15,000 people as well as generating more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs within the supply chain.
To date, a total of more than 19 million SEAT vehicles have been built and sold, and more than 72,000 people have been employed by SEAT. The Ibiza (5.8 million sold) is the most popular SEAT of all time, followed by the Leon (2.3 million), 127 (1.2 million), Cordoba (1.03 million) and the Toledo (1.01 million).
Over the past 70 years the carmaker has launched a total of 75 models, including vehicles that have marked a turning point for the company. This started in 1953 with the SEAT 1400, the first car manufactured by the company, or with the legendary SEAT 600, which was unveiled in 1957 and soon became a symbol of freedom and mobility in Spain.
Following the company’s formation, SEAT built its first factory at Barcelona’s Zona Franca, under the supervision of SEAT’s first president, José Ortiz-Echagüe. Fittingly, Ortiz-Echagüe is as remarkable as the manufacturer he helped build, not only working as a military engineer and a pilot – even becoming the oldest person to fly at supersonic speeds – but also established himself as one of Spain’s most renowned photographers. Having helped build SEAT in the 1950s, Ortiz-Echagüe was later named Honorary Lifetime President.
On November 13, 1953, the first car rolled off the assembly line: the SEAT 1400, with just 925 employees in the factory.
In 1957, SEAT launched the 600, designed to enable Spanish families to enjoy mobility and independence that no car in Spain had offered before. It cost 65,000 pasetas, the equivalent of £340 (€390) today.
In the same year SEAT opened its Apprentice School in Barcelona, where students are still trained today, which has trained more than 2,700 professionals to date.
The 1960s were the years of the iconic SEAT 600, the vehicle that put the country on wheels and shaped an entire generation. The launch signalled the beginning of the mass motorization stage in Spain. By the summer of 1973, almost 800,000 units had been produced.
1960 saw the introduction of a new badge, which was further simplified in 1962, reflecting the changing face of the business.
In 1965, the company made its first overseas export, a SEAT 600 to Colombia.
SEAT’s production facility manufactured its one millionth vehicle in 1968.