Citroën CEO: ‘Cars should be smaller, cheaper… and more enjoyable’

Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée is clear: the energy transition will lead to another smaller, lighter type of car. It could prelude the end of the current hype: the big, boxy SUV. BEVs need more aerodynamic shapes and as less weight as possible. Unfortunately, that’s hardly the case for SUVs.

The Citroën boss is fairly outspoken these days. When visiting the Brussels Motor Show, he talked about the need for smaller, more affordable cars, especially in the EV segment, and speaking to the British car magazine Autocar he predicted the decline of a current big trend, the SUV. Inside the Stellantis Group, Citroën is positioned as the brand that should offer more affordable and more ‘adventurous’ cars.

Post-SUV world

“The transition to electric vehicles is going to increase the importance of aerodynamics massively,” Cobée says; he’s calling it the “post-SUV world”. And he adds: “In the current world of ICE cars, to be honest, whether your car is aero or not, you increase the fuel tank and as long as your purchasing power ignores the price of gasoline, which it does for 30-50% of the population, what is there to bother?”

“In the fully electric world, on the contrary, you lose autonomy because of aerodynamics, so the link is much stronger. So anything high or squarish will have an immediate penalty to its autonomy in a battery-EV world.” Cobée also points to the future methods of vehicle taxation, where heavier and larger vehicles will be penalized. This could further threaten the viability of SUVs.

“There will be, I’m quite convinced, some form of regulation on weights and battery sizes,” he said. “In France, at the moment, if you buy an electric car and it weighs more than 2,4 tons, you’re not eligible for incentives,” he explains. Eventually, this cut-off could fall to 1,8 tons. “So if you start talking about less than two tons and less than 60 or 70 kWh battery capacity, SUVs will suffer massively.”

More efficient

Because of this, Cobée is confident carmakers will instead look to design cars that sit lower and offer more efficient shapes rather than shaving kilograms from bulky, straight-edged SUVs. “If I reduce weight by 50 kg, the impact is nearly zero. But if I improve aerodynamics or powertrain efficiency, the impact on the range is significant. So they have a much higher impact or level of impact than weight.”

He adds: “So far, the auto industry just said: ‘You want less weight? We’ll use aluminum instead of steel.’ But that means the cost is higher. I think the real challenge is less weight for less cost. It’s not impossible, but we need to do it by design.” Of course, Cobée refers to the lightweight treated-cardboard bodywork of the recent Citroën Oli concept. “If you see Oli, you can stand on the hood or roof, and it’s a third of the weight, and it’s recycled.”

Compromise Oli

Cobée calls on politicians to find a ‘common ground’ on the future of the car. Compromises must be struck to allow car manufacturers to make significant progress toward a net zero future. This compromise could come from mass-produced environmentally friendly vehicles like the Citroën Oli concept.

“You know, when you see and drive Oli, such ‘compromise cars’ can also be fun to drive and look appealing. For sure, this is better than imposing harsh laws and regulations. But, on the other hand, you won’t motivate 7 billion people by telling them how and when they should travel and that it will be sad and hard. It won’t work. So we have to look for alternatives and work at it together.”

Citroën’s Oli concept wants to be the inspiration for smaller, lighter, cheaper, and more fun-to-drive electric vehicles. Oli is a city dweller because one can hardly say it looks aerodynamic /Citroën


For years now, the most popular car in Belgium has been the Citroën C3, despite the importance of the (more premium-oriented) fleet market. It means the little Citroën is very popular with individual buyers, especially the ones with a smaller budget. But can a popular, affordable car easily be translated into an electric one?

Cobée: “This year, we will launch our new C3. We want to offer an electric version of it too, at an affordable price. But we also have to earn money. The battery cost is diminishing, but not as fast as we hoped because raw material prices are soaring. That’s why it’s important to choose for efficiency and the right battery size (a big cost factor).” Citroën recently revealed that it will soon deliver a pure electric version of its current C3 in India.

“I believe that society is ready for it. Many younger people don’t opt for fast fashion anymore, they want durable clothing. Those are our clients of the future. For that, we need a stable volume over a longer period, efficiently produced at an affordable price. In France, we always measure the price of a car compared to the minimum monthly income (SMIC).”

“For an average car on the market, a French consumer has to pay 17 monthly wages. For the C3, that’s 9,5 months of pay, reduced from 11,5 months a few years ago. We will try to do the same for a small BEV.”

In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Volkswagen CFO Arno Antlitz said that a smaller and cheaper fully electric car than the planned ID.2 (estimated price at €25 000) is impossible for the moment.

“We have to work profitably,” he said. “Therefore, below an ID.2 at the current cost of batteries and raw materials, a cheaper model is not feasible at the current time. Nevertheless, we are working intensively on a solution (for a possible ID.1).”



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