Next year, Fiat will launch a full-electric version of the 500 on a new platform to prepare for what some automakers believe is the only viable propulsion for smaller cars. Citroen brand CEO Linda Jackson told Automotive News Europe that the Citroen C1's future was likely to be electric. Meanwhile, Skoda has unveiled an electric version of its Citigo, which will be sold under the brand's new e-mobility subbrand, iV.
Full-electric variants look to be the best option for the entry segment when VW Group replaces its current minicars, Skoda's Favey said: "Everything else will be tricky to justify."
The continued popularity of the Renault Zoe, which last year was Europe's No. 2 selling full-electric car after the Nissan Leaf, gives manufacturers hope that an electric future is viable for small cars.
At the Geneva auto show, Peugeot unveiled a rival to the Zoe in the form of the e208. Opel and Citroen are also gearing up to launch related full-electric small cars. PSA's electrification strategy is to restrict full-electric to smaller cars, where range is less important, and add plug-in hybrid technology to larger cars that traditionally cover more ground.
Honda will launch a small electric car, the Honda E, next year following an introduction at the Frankfurt auto show in September. Meanwhile, Dacia, Nissan and Mazda are also expected to debut small EVs in the midterm.
The VW Group so far is concentrating on compact cars for its first large-scale push into EVs via its MEB platform. But more recently, the manufacturer announced the development of a family of smaller, urban-focused EVs starting at less than $22,500. These cars are due around 2023 and will be led by its Seat brand in Spain.
The problem is still one of cost.
"The €10,000 ($11,200) car is going to be very difficult," Ford of Europe sales boss Roelant de Waard said.
Thomas Ulbrich, VW brand's board member for e-mobility, said, "Minicar customers are paying 12,000 to 14,000 euros — but in the future, when they are electrified, it will be 18,000 to 20,000 euros. This will be a problem."
He added that VW and the German government are discussing how to provide extra subsidies to this sector. Those customers "have the right" to have access to electrified models, he said.