Welcome to Ridiculous Rebadges, a series of articles in which I go through and examine the details and circumstances surrounding some of the more infamous and some of the more esoteric vehicular rebadges throughout automotive history.
For the past decade or so, Seat has been VAG’s sporty yet inexpensive brand, like a Spanish Pontiac for the German giant but with less of a storied heritage (but also less plastic body cladding, too). Anyways, the last car you would expect from a purveyor of compact, sporting hatches and practical family MPVs would be a BMW 3 Series style executive saloon, right? Well you European folks probably know where this is going, but for Americans who aren’t aware, take a look at this photo of the B7 Audi A4, sold between 2005-2008.
Now take a look at this, the Seat Exeo, sold from 2009 to 2013.
See the family resemblance? The story goes, or so it seems, that as soon as production for the B7 A4 ended, Seat suddenly decided that it needed a large family car to fill gap in their lineup. This slot had been empty since even before the VAG merger in 1986 after the Seat 132 (based on the Fiat 132) halted production in 1982. There’s a large correlation, though, in that the Seat Toledo, which had previously been Seat’s largest sedan prior to 2005, had moved to a hatchback/mini-MPV body style (inspired by the Renault Vel Satis!) between 2004 to 2009 and the change was ill received by the European market. Seat denies that the Exeo replaced the Toledo MPV, but why else would the Exeo have been created at the last minute?
Despite seeming like a last minute solution, however, Seat still took the time to relocate the entire B7 assembly line from the Audi plant in Ingolstadt and moved to Martorell, Spain and redesigned a few body panels along the way.
An Exeo wagon was offered as well (called the ST), based on the old A4 Avant, but no Quattro (AWD) versions were available, so the Exeo was strictly a more plebeian offering than the outgoing A4, especially as only I4 engines were offered.
The interior received a refresh, replacing Audi’s dowdy rectangular air vents with Seat’s infinitely more sporting “three circle” design.
Contemporary reviewers often compared the Exeo to used A4 purchases rather than either competing family/executive cars such as the Passat or 3 Series, respectively, mainly because of Seat’s lack of a prestigious brand image. In the end, the Toledo came back as a sedan in 2011 and (though they won’t admit it) fixed the gap that the Exeo had awkwardly filled in the interim. So there you have it, the tale of the time Seat screwed up and had to buy some used Audis.