* Seat had 10 million euro operating loss in 2015
* Ateca SUV, Seat's first, has 21,000 orders
* To launch Arona SUV in 2017, revamp Leon, Ibiza models
By Andreas Cremer
PARIS, Sept 30 Volkswagen's
long-struggling Spanish division Seat said it may return to
profit this year for the first time since 2008 and stay there
through 2018, benefiting from demand for new and redesigned
Cost cuts and sales of models with higher trim levels helped
Seat increase first-half operating profit to 93 million euros
($104 million) from 52 million a year earlier, its best-ever
The new Ateca, Seat's first sport-utility vehicle being
rolled out across Europe this year, will help second-half sales
and volume should grow further in 2017 thanks to revamped
versions of the Leon and Ibiza models and the launch of the
Arona, another SUV, Chief Executive Luca de Meo told Reuters.
The Ateca, competing with models from rivals including
Renault and Hyundai Motor in the
fast-growing compact SUV segment, has attracted 21,000 orders
this summer with many customers new to the brand, de Meo said.
"It changes the game for us, it gives us completely
different credibility" on profitability, the CEO said in an
interview on Friday at the Paris auto show.
"If we have a bit of luck and markets don't collapse, I see
the next three years as profitable years."
Seat last year narrowed its operating loss to 10 million
euros from 127 million in 2014, according to Volkswagen's (VW)
VW, which bought Seat in 1986 to increase its exposure to
the then fast-growing Spanish market, has long tried to overcome
the losses caused by under-utilised capacity at Seat's Spanish
factory in Martorell.
It has cut management and manufacturing costs and shifted
production of Audi's Q3 SUV to Martorell.
De Meo said Seat may offer an electric car by about 2020 as
parent VW pushes zero-emission technology across the 12-brand
($1 = 0.8952 euros)
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)