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BERLIN, March 23 (Reuters) - Volkswagen's Spanish division Seat reported on Thursday its first annual operating profit since 2007 and announced plans to launch a third sport-utility vehicle (SUV) in as many years in 2018 to try to build on its recovery.
Seat said it made an operating profit of 143 million euros ($154 million) last year compared with a 7 million euro loss in 2015, helped by selling more models with higher specifications and integrating its R&D operations with parent Volkswagen (VW).
"Seat is now preparing itself for development and growth," chief executive Luca de Meo said in an emailed statement.
The 2018 SUV, which follows the launch of the Ateca crossover in 2016 and its smaller sibling Arona later this year, "will boost brand image and will have a very big effect on our ability to generate margins," the CEO said.
"This car will bring new customers to us."
Seat's third SUV model will be built at VW's main Wolfsburg factory and use the German group's cost-saving MQB modular platform that underpins VW's top-selling Tiguan SUV.
VW, which bought Seat in 1986 to increase its exposure to the then fast-growing Spanish market, has long battled to reverse losses caused by under-utilised capacity at Seat's factory in Martorell near Barcelona.
$1 = 0.9276 euros Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Mark Potter