BARCELONA - Volkswagen's Spanish brand SEAT plans to invest 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) from 2020-2025 and is committed to making electric cars in Spain with the right government support, it said on Wednesday.
Carmakers are ramping up production of electric vehicles to try to meet tough European emissions regulations, but the hefty costs involved have come just as demand for cars has been hammered by the coronavirus crisis.
SEAT's planned investments in research and development, equipment and electric cars is higher than the 3.3 billion euros for 2016-2020.
The carmaker is willing to make electric models at its main Martorell plan, outside Barcelona, starting in 2025, but this will depend on a step up in renewable energy and charging infrastructure in Spain, among other factors, SEAT's interim chairman Carsten Isensee told a news conference.
Isensee said the Spanish government's recent plan to support the automobile sector was a step in the right direction, but there was also a need to stimulate demand for electric cars.
SEAT reported a 48 million euro loss in the first quarter of 2020 due to the health crisis and Isensee warned the second quarter would be worse.
"We are confident we will recover," he added, noting production at SEAT's main plant was currently almost the same as before the pandemic.
SEAT has had a turbulent start to the year after record sales in 2019, when it delivered 574,078 vehicles - 10.9% more than in 2018 and the third year in a row of double-digit growth.
Luca de Meo stepped down as chairman in January to later become Renault's chief executive.
SEAT also closed its Barcelona factory for around six weeks due to the pandemic and temporarily laid off thousands of workers.
The brand launched its first fully electric vehicle last year and plans to have six electric and plug-in hybrid models by 2021.
($1 = 0.8872 euros)
(Reporting by Joan Faus, Editing by Inti Landauro and Mark Potter) ((email@example.com;))