Analysis: is this the end for the city car?


Nothing has changed much since then, as Seat boss Luca de Meo confirmed in Frankfurt. He said that even a large sector B [supermini] car with a viable price is a difficult call to develop and that the electric versions of these cars are unlikely to make money for their manufacturers until the batteries have a cost parity with the internal combustion engines, which is far away.

“Zero CO2 is a goal worth fighting for,” he said, “but it’s a huge stress for our business, and as far as the € 30,000 is concerned. [£26,000] Class B cars at this show – pah!

Battery-powered electric cars are the current darling of a media love affair with electric traction. Still, Tavares explained the problems. “On cars with such small price tags,” he said, “the battery can be up to 70% of the cost of the car. So you’re going to see a segment of cars. [A-sector] disappear, because if you put a price on them to make them sustainable, it is a price that young people cannot afford.

But how real will the fuel and CO2 savings be through the elimination of A-segment cars? Small cars have much lower annual mileage than larger models – typically around 8,000 miles for a B-sector city car and even less for an A-segment car – so they just don’t get used as much. or don’t use as much fuel as bigger cars, which makes them inherently cleaner. And while the nominal CO2 contribution of an Sector A car might seem relatively high on paper, it’s hard to believe that a 2.5 ton plug-in hybrid SUV with its WLTP test emissions of less than 50g / km is twice less polluting than a 900 kg city car producing CO2 emissions of around 100 g / km. Plus, do we know if the owners of those monster plug-in SUVs are actually plugging them in?

It also does not seem fair that the cost of crash safety, which must be built into an Sector A car to enable its passengers to survive an impact with a large, heavy SUV, should be borne by the A -segment car buyer only. In 2001, Bernd Pischetsrieder, then head of VW, nostalgically pointed out that if you remove the safety and environmental equipment from a standard VW small family car and put it on the floor of a workshop, you would look at the cost of a complete VW small family car in Brazil. Since then, his example will have become more extreme.