CUPRA is a car brand with something to prove.
In an increasingly overcrowded electric market, how will this relatively new player from Spain make itself stand out? The answer, it seems, is music.
Rolling Stone UK attended the launch event last month in Berlin for CUPRA’s first all-electric SUV, the Tavascan. There, it was obvious that music is playing a huge part in forming the fledgling brand’s identity.
In the massive event space in the former Tempelhof airport, a DJ spun tracks from a Primavera Sounds-branded booth. Adding to the nightclub vibe, dry ice and lasers filled the otherwise pitch black corridors to the space’s approach.
Elsewhere, cyber-goth-looking ushers chaperoned attendees, wearing looks reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s ‘The Fame Monster’ era.
Willow Smith even made a (holographic) appearance, performing a version of Tears for Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’.
The company also recently announced a collaboration with Spanish singer Rosalia.
“We’re an emerging brand, so I think we need to work with emerging artists,” CUPRA CEO Wayne Griffiths said.
“Rosalia, she’s probably the hottest thing happening in Spain at the moment with the inner target group. She fits with us because she’s from Barcelona. She’s a great fit that gives us an international reach as well.
“And Willow Smith, I mean, she’s got a great voice, she’s a rising star, she looks great.”
Sennheiser audio system to come as standard
Also cementing the brand’s musical ties, the Tavascan will come with a Sennheiser audio system as standard. Branded premium sound systems are normally an optional upgrade with cars. But CUPRA believes that everyone should be able to crank up the volume without compromise.
“Both brands share a deep passion for music as an integral part of their brand identity,” Veronique Larcher, director of Sennheiser Mobility, said.
“Our approach is disruptive, rebellious, and unconventional, which is reflected in the unique sound experience we’ve created for the CUPRA Tavascan.”
Meanwhile, the brand has created co-branded events with Boiler Room, showcasing DJ talent across both Spain and Germany. Last year, a number of CUPRA x Boiler Room DJ events were broadcast live online.
This summer will also see CUPRA sponsor the Primavera Sound festivals in Madrid and Barcelona. The separate events will feature the same line-up, including Blur, Halsey, New Order, and Kendrick Lamar.
‘We only work with people who want to have fun’ – CEO Wayne Griffiths
Marvel star Daniel Brühl is also a member of CUPRA’s brand ambassadors – or CUPRA Tribe, as the company calls them.
CUPRA is casting a very wide net indeed, if the mix of those at the launch event was anything to go by. We encountered a melting pot of media players, from the obvious car journalists to fashion and lifestyle influencers.
“At the end of the day, we only work people who want to have fun. Otherwise, it’s boring. We spend so much time at work. We need to have people around us who are similarly minded and enjoy being with us,” Griffiths explained.
Though the name has been around since the 1980s as the racing arm of Spain’s SEAT, Volkswagen Group-owned CUPRA went it alone in 2018 as an offshoot brand. Its current models include the Born, Formentor, and Leon.
“We want to be desired, so anything we do has to provoke. If it looks nice or everybody likes it, then we’re doing something wrong,” Griffiths said.
This ethos is reflected in the design of the DarkRebel, a Tron-looking digital concept car. As part of its own metaverse known as Metahype, fans can configure their own stylings for the car. This can be done through what it calls its Hyper Configurator tool.
“We want co-creation. We want people to inspire us on the design, so I think there’s a huge potential and we’ll see where we go,” Griffiths told us.
The three-day event also coincided with the 2023 Berlin ePrix, held at the same venue. The CUPRA name could be seen emblazoned on the ABT CUPRA team’s two electric Formula E cars.
Though team ABT CUPRA finished towards the bottom of the roster, seeing the electric race cars whizz around the course showed us how the company values design at its core.
“We need to provoke the system with our design. It’s one of the big differentiators from us. Not because we’ve got the right recipe, but because we’re authentic,” Griffiths said.
The CUPRA Tavascan will go on sale next year, with prices estimated to start from around £50,000.