The curious case of Seat's reappearing door handles

The previous Seat Leon which the new 2013 model will replace later this year was a five-door hatch disguised to look like a three-door with its hidden rear door handles. A move the company has now admitted “was a problem”.

Customers were ultimately being turned-off by the company’s five door Leon model, as they believed that it was in fact a three door model.

This was the case due to the vehicle’s hidden rear door handles. Customers would not notice these handles and believe that the disguised five door hatch was actually a three door.

James Buckell, Leon product manager at Seat UK, commented: ‘We just didn’t appear on enough people’s radar. We sold to enthusiasts – people who wanted the couple look and the five door practicality – but I hate to think how many sales we missed because other potential buyers dismissed the car as a three door.’

This will no longer be a problem with the third generation Leon models, which obviously have four doors.

The new versions will also come in three distinctive body styles with the three door SC coupe, which was unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show earlier this month, and the ST estate variant, which is scheduled to be unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September.

The new generation Leon models are so important to Seat UK that the launch activity for the vehicles began unusually early. Buckell remarked: ‘We had twenty cars here in November which we used for dealer training.’

He continued: ‘We focused on selling the run-out cars because March is such an important month and we had to hit the ground running. We did a great job and dealers are really happy – we only had around 40 cars left across the network in March.’

The Seat Leon saw its best sales back in 2007, with 13,481 new Leon models being registered in the UK. Buckell predicts sales volume for the Leon to be around 12,000 this year and rising to between 16,000-17,000 when all of the body styles for the vehicle are available next year.

Buckell did identify a challenge, however, as historically one-in-four Leon sales were for more powerful models like the FR and Cupra, with more than 150PS. He noted: ‘There just aren’t that many customers for those performance derivatives.’

Although there was some dealer resistance to featuring a 1.2 litre engine in the range, Buckell expects that to change with the new models – as early orders suggest that around fifteen per cent of buyers are opting for the 105PS 1.2 litre TSI version.

For further information regarding the pricing and specification of the new Leon models, visit a local Perrys Seat Dealership in Aylesbury.

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