Strong intention at Cupra to produce the Dark Rebel as a brand-building, low-volume halo sports car
Spanish manufacturer Cupra this weekend revealed the most ambitious concept car in the marque’s history in the form of the fully electric Dark Rebel shooting brake – and Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths says the brand will fight for the right to build the model.
In a break from concept car tradition, the Dark Rebel’s existence can be semantically debated: instead of rolling out a painted clay or fibreglass model, Cupra presented the Dark Rebel only in the digital realms of 3D rendering and the metaverse.
But according to the Volkswagen Group brand, onlookers shouldn’t confuse the Dark Rebel’s digital-only existence for it being a flash-in-the-pan or simply a design study: there’s a fight afoot to get the two-door signed off as a halo model.
“We don’t waste time teasing [cars] that cannot become reality,” Cupra chief executive Wayne Griffiths told Australian media in Berlin. “We would never do that. We have limited resources, and we don’t have time and money to waste.”
The brand has form to back up Griffith’s statement. The Urban Rebel concept and EV race-car is being developed into a compact hot hatch, with Cupra leading development for the car’s platform that will also be utilised by Volkswagen for the ID2 model, plus an as-yet unrevealed Skoda city car.
Cupra ardently suggests that it has no interest in premium or luxury billing, but Barcelona-based boss Griffiths believes a Dark Rebel range-topper could be an important brand-builder – even if it’s expensive and sold in small numbers.
“The Dark Rebel is an ambition for what we want to do with the brand. And if we can dream it, we can create it. We need to find the right timing, the right synergies [within the Volkswagen Group] and the right time in terms of making the investment decision to get priority on it,” Griffiths said.
“Obviously, it would be low-volume. It’s not a volume market. But I think it’s huge for the brand, the potential of this car – not in terms of [sales] volume, but in brand impact.”
Cupra saved the reveal of the Dark Rebel concept as a special “one more thing” component of the brand’s “Exponential Impulse” brand event on the sidelines of the Berlin round of the Formula-E championship.
The Dark Rebel concept takes the form of a two-door shooting brake in a similar manner to Ferrari’s wagon-bodied production FF and GTC4 Lusso models.
A conceptual exterior and interior design were revealed by Cupra chief designer Jorge Diaz, and a metaverse-based online configurator will allow the public to customise the design, including with Porsche-style chroma-flair effect paint.
But few other details were revealed about the format the mooted production version of the Dark Rebel could take – other than the fact that it would definitely be all-electric. Power, torque, battery size, range and motor-count are under-wraps, but Griffiths promises “it’ll be as fast as it looks.”
The confirmation that the Dark Rebel would be electric sits in line with Cupra’s commitment that its 2024 Terramar crossover will be the last model that it introduces with standard internal combustion engines.
To push the business case over the line with Volkswagen Group headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, Cupra boss Griffiths noted that finding synergies with Group platforms and production would be crucial.
Cupra vice president of research and development Werner Tietz would not confirm which Volkswagen Group platform the Dark Rebel would be based upon – but alignment with the PPE platform that will underpin a range of Group models, including the Porsche 718 sports car, is a possibility.
While PPE will primarily support electric Porsche Macan and Audi Q6 SUV models, for several years Porsche has been adapting the PPE chassis to replicate mid-engine sports car dynamics for use in the next-gen, electric-only 718 model that is expected to weigh about 1600 kg.
With so much packaging and weight-saving work already completed by cousin Porsche, PPE could make a suitable basis for the Dark Rebel. Griffiths indicated that Cupra is prepared for a battle to secure such a sign-off within Volkswagen.
“Sometimes you have to set the benchmark of where you want to go really high. If it’s always something that is easily achieved and gets signed off [quickly], then I probably didn’t throw the ball far enough away,” he said.
“So we’ve thrown [this] ball far away. Now, we’re going to be busy running for it, which is good for the team – and for me. It challenges us and pushes the boundaries of the brand, and it will trigger a lot of other things. So we’re going to fight to make it happen.”
Achieving sign-off to build the Dark Rebel as a halo model is related to Cupra’s ambitious project to enter the United States market – a plan Griffiths says must be underpinned by a robust strategy built around models that appeal to American tastes.
“Perhaps they go hand-in-hand,” Griffiths said, speaking to the dual efforts underway to secure approval to pursue a US market entry and to build the Dark Rebel.
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