In 2019, Barcelona-based car manufacturer SEAT -part of the Volkswagen Group- opened the SEAT:CODE development center in the city center, giving it the mission of finding new business models related to mobility and the transformation of the automotive sector.
Carlos Buenosvinos, Head of SEAT:CODE, explains the disruptive projects carried out by it - from moto-sharing platforms to the improvement of logistics production and a control tool for processing respirators for COVID-19 patients.
Buenosvinos also highlights the strengths of the Catalan car industry and how the various agents in the territory can contribute to defining future mobility.
What's the mission of the SEAT:CODE development center?
SEAT:CODE is part of the Volkswagen Group's network of software development centers. Mobility is our specialty. We have three very clear lines of work: logistics production, mobility and micromobility, and the customer journey.
With SEAT:CODE, SEAT wants to internalize development capacity, keeping the know-how in-house. This means the company builds, reskills, and becomes more technological. It also becomes more attentive to opportunities to invent new business models that may impact the company's future.
The automotive industry is transforming, and the area of new business models means you can diversify your customer, product, service, etc. Of course, selling cars is still at the forefront of the business, but you must start somewhere if you want to think of alternatives or complementary business models. And this is the role of SEAT:CODE.
Why was Barcelona chosen as a location for the center?
It would be inconceivable for SEAT to consider any other city: it is 100% committed to Barcelona. Proof of that is the new CASA SEAT building on Diagonal with Passeig de Gràcia (in the center of Barcelona) or the location of the SEAT:CODE building on Rambla de les Flors.
We are here not only because we like the city center area and it's extremely well connected, but because we want to be part of the transformation of the city model. Barcelona is also one of the world's top 5 cities in terms of investment in knowledge and a hub for technological companies, which is a determining factor.
Do you think Catalonia can be crucial in defining and implementing future mobility? What are its strengths?
We have many companies, industry suppliers, technology partners, and agents, such as SEAT. In addition, Barcelona is a trendsetting city, with the challenges faced by mobility just like any other large city in the world, and where the industrial sector is significantly active.
From a technological perspective, it is a city where significant companies work on mobility-related issues. And not just the mobility of people but also logistics, delivery, food delivery, last mile, etc. Barcelona holds all the cards to be an essential player in future mobility.
Within this concept of mobility of the future, we are not only working in SEAT MÓ and moto sharing, but we have a significant interest in mobility for public administration. For example, disconnected or remote villages: we are working with agents from towns and cities in Catalonia to offer improved mobility solutions.
"Barcelona is one of the world's top 5 cities in terms of investment in knowledge and a hub for technological companies."
“From a technological perspective, Barcelona is a city where major companies are working on issues related to mobility”
Carlos Buenosvinos, Head of SEAT:CODE
The center was launched in 2019. What, in your view, are the highlights regarding its activity so far?
Our flagship is the SEAT MÓ mobility platform, which combines both the private motorcycle aspect with moto sharing in Barcelona. We have developed all the technical parts and the mobile application.
This is the most relevant project because it aligns with creating new business models: we are already marketing it to third parties. From the start of the project, 4 or 5 leads have materialized, some of them from Catalan companies interested in mobility and sustainability. We will soon be able to announce these partnerships.
Regarding the commercial aspect, we created the whole web system to prebook the Cupra Ateca Special Edition and the flexible leasing subscription model. Furthermore, since 2019, we have been taking care of most of the newest commercial processes of SEAT, CUPRA, and SEAT MÓ.
Regarding logistics production, we are working on issues of internal efficiency. SEAT parts and components suppliers are beginning to use tools developed at SEAT:CODE; for example, tracking trucks, shipping parts, or rerouting trucks if there are traffic jams.
And a small but emotionally gratifying project concerns respirators for COVID-19 patients. A large number of companies collaborated in the development of the SEAT respirator. Many people sent masks, parts, etc., and asked us if we could create a small logistic control tool for manufacturing and delivering respirators.
"From a technological perspective, Barcelona is a city where major companies are working on issues related to mobility. And not just the mobility of people, but also logistics, delivery, food delivery, last mile, etc."
How big is your team? What has growth been like?
We started as a SEAT Metropolis:Lab with about 20-25 people. In 2019, we started SEAT:CODE hiring intensively, and referrals here have worked very well. There are now about 150 of us; last year, we signed on 90.
This year, we will continue to expand. The business is going well; we are growing and doing things for SEAT MÓ and CUPRA and the Volkswagen Group. If we continue to attract projects from the Volkswagen Group, we will continue to grow.
What professional profiles does the center look for?
We seek data engineers, data science, front-end people, back-end, etc. The technologies we work with are mainly Java. We have product owners, design people, UX, UY, etc. We are a technical company, basically.
And can you find this talent in Barcelona/Catalonia?
Yes, we can. The talent is out there; if it isn't, it can be trained. The point is to have an attractive project with a positive impact and flexible conditions that make sense to people. We have recruited 90 people in one year. I don't know of any Barcelona startup that has signed so many people quickly. The people who have come have referred friends, acquaintances, and colleagues to us, and we have also incorporated people from the foreign market.
SEAT planned to move five people from the production line to SEAT:CODE to do software development, something unique! This is one of the projects that motivates me a lot personally. It showcases our values, such as reskilling, productivity, and updating. Talent can be formed. With patience, it can be done.
We don't just work with one type of technology; we know we need good professional people with the attitude and desire to learn. What you don't know, you will learn here. And that speeds up the issue of hiring. You can get that talent if you have a good project and diversification strategies.
What kind of projects are you currently working on?
The logistics production platform. Part of the work of SEAT:CODE for SEAT has to do with supply chain optimization, making it faster and more efficient. We want to be the brand that delivers cars as quickly and sustainably as possible. This has tremendous complexity.
And the supply chain is a challenge that car manufacturers and many other manufacturers face. So we thought that if we could solve it for SEAT, we could leverage it as a model and make tools available to the Spanish industrial sector, helping them to be more competitive.
Therefore, this year we would like to launch accessible and valuable services for companies in the industrial sector that can improve competitiveness: better prices, efficiencies, supplier controls, better quality, fewer manufacturing incidents, etc. We are already working with some clients who are testing what we have to see if it can help them. This, for me, would be this year's dream.
What service do you provide to other Volkswagen Group brands from here?
Since last year, we have been part of the Volkswagen ecosystem, working on essential brand projects dedicated to internal improvements and systems.
With our temperament and philosophy–with a startup mindset, focused on high quality, investing just the right amount, and always looking for profitability–we can deliver projects and offer the same quality as a German supplier. The Volkswagen Group is pleased with this, a source of pride for us and SEAT.