The struggle for ecology kills urban subcompactsFebruary 11, 2019
In the coming years, traditional A-class hatchbacks may disappear from the European market, as their production will become unprofitable, but electric cars and crossovers will partially fill the segment.
A-class cars currently occupy about 7.8% of the European market for new cars: in 2018, 1.2 million urban small-sized cars were sold. However, next year the segment will be reduced due to the fact that the Opel brand will remove the Adam and Karl models from production, and in a couple of years Volkswagen Up may disappear from sale! (along with the clones of Seat and Skoda). French Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 will hold out on the conveyor in the Czech city of Kolin until 2021, after which this company will depart to Toyota, which may turn its Aygo into a crossover. The future of small Fiats, whose sales are falling, is also questionable, since FCA is now more focused on the American market. Ford recently announced a large-scale reduction of its business in Europe: passenger models will fall under the knife, so the small Ka + hatchback will obviously leave the region soon.
What is going on? The cost of developing small class cars is the same as the development of any other mass models, but at the same time they have to be sold at the lowest price, that is, they can pay off only for large editions. And the circulation is, in general, small – we look at the statistics on the resource carsalesbase.com: the outdated Fiat 500 is in the lead in the European A-class: last year 188,488 copies were sold, which is 0.5% less than in 2017. The second place in the segment is also taken by the quite middle-aged Fiat Panda hatchback – 168,094 pieces sold. (-10.1%), the third is VW Up! – 97 366 pcs. (-3.3%), followed by Toyota Aygo – 92,187 units. (+ 9.0%), Renault Twingo – 86 221 (+ 11.5%), Hyundai i10 – 83 102 pcs. (-8.3%), Kia Picanto – 74,526 (+ 19.9%), Peugeot 108 – 57,257 units. (+ 2.6%), Citroen C1 – 52 020 units. (-2.4%), Ford Ka + – 51,057 units. (-0.4%), Opel Karl – 48 292 pcs. (-2.5%), Suzuki Ignis – 43,774 (+ 6.3%), Opel Adam 41,817 pcs. (-13.2%), Skoda Citigo – 36,450 pieces. (+ 2.1%), Seat Mii – 13,031 pcs. (-15.4%). We deliberately removed the premium smart and Lancia from the list, as the price factor for them is not very critical, but for non-premium “extra” 500 euros can be decisive for the purchase.
Meanwhile, as reported by Automotive News Europe, citing the head of VW, Herbert Diss, the price for a hatchback is Up! will rise from the current minimum of 10,625 euros (in Germany) by about 3,500 euros, that is, a third, if we try to fit it into promising environmental standards that will come into force in 2030, and it’s clear that with such a premium, it’s cheap. the car will be useless to no one.
In recent years, diesel engines have completely disappeared under the pressure of the environmental agenda from the A-class, as modern exhaust gas cleaning systems make their prices too heavy. Against the background of certification rules, petrol engines are also gradually overgrowing with recycling systems, diesel particulate filters and low-voltage hybrid mats – the cost of these components for A-class models is too high, and manufacturers do not earn anything on them, and therefore it makes no sense to invest in the development of new models.
Electric cars? The price of the battery is still too high and does not allow making A-class electric hatchbacks as affordable as gasoline ones. In addition, the small size of the machine does not allow to place a large-capacity battery inside, in order to ensure the usual power reserve for the consumer. It is clear that most small cars rarely roll out more than 100 km per day, and yet the A-class models on the autobahn are not such a rarity, many Europeans travel on such machines, since they have no money for more expensive cars, and A-class segment is very popular. Say, what is the rental in the era of car sharing? Alas, car sharing has hiked in cities, and at great distances rolling machines are more profitable than traditional ones – of course, those that are cheaper.
In general, there is a need for an A-class, and some companies in this segment, of course, will remain even in the absence of profit, relying on the brand’s promotion and dealer support, but such cars will most likely not be never. We, of course, are looking forward to the nearest Geneva Motor Show, where Citroen will show a certain concept of the future city car, which in serial form should become as iconic as the “ugly duckling” 2CV, but it is unlikely to be a cheap car. Probably, we are talking about an electric car, and it is unlikely that it will be possible to buy it for less than 10 thousand euros, like the Citroen C1, because only the battery in the electric car will pull on the “top ten”.
Some manufacturers, like Toyota, already mentioned, are considering selling crossovers in the A-class – for them it will be possible to shake off additional TW-three thousand euros from the consumer, but Suzuki Ignis experience shows that demand for such models is limited.
And yet, if there is a demand for cheap small cars, then there will certainly be an offer. We venture to suggest that the Dacia brand will drop into the A-class. The Sandero hatchback with a price of 6,990 euros last year sold in Europe with a circulation of 211,680 copies (+ 8.6%), ranking 11th on the list of absolute bestsellers. Dacia, of course, will also be forced to charge a premium for “planting” the engines, but by making the body smaller and saving on trim, it will be possible to keep the price tag below the psychological mark of 10 thousand euros. Another brand is unlikely to succeed.
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