Volkswagen Thinks Small on EVs
But can it make them profitable?
It's an old adage in the auto business: Small cars mean small profits. And Volkswagen knows this only too well.
Even if the next generation New Small Family (NSF) lineup—VW Up!, Skoda Citigo, Seat Mii—were once more based on a low-cost evolution of an ancient VW Polo platform, the return on investment would still be almost negligible.
But European city dwellers want—need—small cars. So, what to do?
Two options for updating the NSF range had been bandied about inside Wolfsburg before Herbert Diess arrived to take over as CEO.
Plan A called for two more exciting new body styles to be put on the existing PQ chassis; Plan B favored a switch to the much more modern MQB componentry.
Only problem is, Diess wasn't happy with either alternative. In his view, Plan A stood for status quo, and Plan B was too expensive.
That's why he suggested Plan C. This breakthrough proposal swaps the combustion engine for an electric motor across the entire range.
A zero-emission e-Up! already exists, but the 80 hp mini-EV costs more than twice as much as the most expensive gasoline-engine model.
Diess, who wants a viable Smart and Mini EV competitor, while at the same time helping to clean up VW Group's CO2 footprint, was undeterred, however.
To keep costs at bay, VW Group's new mini-EVs will be loosely based on the existing e-Up!
In terms of power output, energy density, and driving range, however, they will take a big leap forward, borrowing heavily from learnings gained during the development of the Group's new bespoke EV architecture, MEB.
Even though the three-door versions of Up!, Citigo and Mii are not overly successful, VW Group product planners see a market for a short yet spacious city car.
In addition, there will also be a five-door hatch and, almost certainly, a crossover-style 'urban warrior' boasting larger diameter wheels and 360-degree bumper-car protection.
Also in the works are a zero-emission delivery van and a commuter bus—anyone remember Walter de Silva's Space Up! concept...?