Initially, SEAT manufactured rebadged Fiat models which differed very little visually from the products of the Italian parent. The SEAT Panda (later restyled as SEAT Marbella) for example was based on the Fiat Panda. The SEAT 600, based on Fiat 600, was the first car for many Spanish families, and became a symbol of the Spanish Miracle.
The first car under the new SEAT logo without Fiat involvement appeared in 1982, and was called the SEAT Ronda. This was a restyled Fiat Ritmo, and sparked a lawsuit from Fiat against SEAT, as the former claimed the car was still too similar to the Ritmo. The then president of SEAT, Juan Miguel Antoñanzas, showed a Ronda to the press with all the parts different from the Fiat Ritmo painted in bright yellow, to highlight the differences. This ended the dispute. Rumour at the time had it that Fiat was angry because the Ronda restyling was in fact too close to their own planned restyling for the Fiat Ritmo, which they had to scrap.
After the withdrawal of Fiat in 1981, the Volkswagen Group subsidiary Audi AG signed a cooperation agreement with SEAT, becoming the major shareholder in 1986, and 100% owner of the company in 1990. During the mid 2000s, the ownership of the SEAT company was realigned, with Audi AG transferring ownership of SEAT to the top-tier holding company Volkswagen Group.
SEAT has its manufacturing facilities in Martorell, an industrial town close to Barcelona. The plant was opened by King Juan Carlos of Spain in 1993, and replaced SEAT's original assembly plant by the coast in Barcelona's freeport zone. The development facilities are some of the newest in the Volkswagen Group. For example, the development and design of the Audi Q7 took place there.
The company styles its own models of cars in accordance with the development policies of the Volkswagen Group. Some of its cars have been sold outside Europe, badged as Volkswagens, such as the SEAT Ibiza hatchback, known in South Africa as the Volkswagen Polo Playa, the SEAT Inca panel van as the Volkswagen Caddy, or the SEAT Córdoba also known as the Volkswagen Polo Classic.