Citroën boss Vincent Cobée believes the impact of the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a sharp rise in demand for electric cars in the near future.
Several major governments, including those in France and Germany, have unveiled substantial financial recovery packages to help boost industry following Covid-19 lockdowns. They include incentives to increase new car sales - with many tied to the purchase of electric and low-emission cars as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions.
Speaking at a launch event for the new C4, which includes a fully electric e-C4 variant, Cobée said that low-emission vehicles – including plug-in hybrids and EVs – currently make up around 6% of the sales mix of Citroën parent firm PSA Group, but he expects that figure to rise sharply.
Asked what percentage of sales the e-C4 will account for, Cobée said: “In the C-segment, we hope the percentage for the C4 will be higher, maybe 8-10%. Because of customer sentiment, the increasing development of infrastructure and new [emissions] regulations, we think that can grow quite fast.
“The last four months have seen a transformation of society and one of the ways out [in terms of economic recovery] is the transformation of regulations, with a push towards low-carbon vehicles.
“So we are expecting that the unexpected could happen and I wouldn’t be surprised if the market share of EVs moves towards 20% very, very rapidly, especially with a car like the C4.
“There is demand to enter the world of clean mobility. It’s not a tree-hugger statement. It’s that I never have to go to a petrol station any more and can charge my car at home. But if you answer this only with city hatchbacks, then the ability for this to spread is limited.”
Cobée noted that the higher purchase price of EVs is still a deterrent to potential buyers. He said: “Anyone who’s worked in the car industry in the last 10 years will know the huge challenges EVs present in terms of battery and development costs. But as citizens, we know that if an EV costs roughly the same as an internal combustion engine car, we would shift.
“At Citroén, we are making a statement: with AMI, we’ve shown than an EV can be affordable, and with the C4, we’re saying that it’s not true an EV can only be a city car, but a family hatch with a range of more than 200 miles.”
Although EVs remain more expensive to buy than combustion-engined cars, Cobée said: “If you consider not just purchase price but running price and residual value, it’s already extremely similar, and especially with the addition of incentives following the coronavirus crisis, the pricing of EVs is extremely competitive.”