Don't Lose Sleep Waiting for Volkswagen's Super-cheap EV

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
dont lose sleep waiting for volkswagens super cheap ev

As Volkswagen Group embarks on its quest to build and disseminate The People’s Propulsion across the globe, rumblings of an ultra-cheap electric car from the automaker have come into focus.

We began hearing of such a vehicle last year, when reports emerged that VW was planning an EV with an MSRP below 20,000 euros (roughly $22,400 USD). That’s below the expected price floor of even the lowliest MEB-platform I.D. model — the I.D. Neo, which starts production in Europe late this year.

Now, the automaker has revealed where it sees this vehicle fitting into VW Group’s vast lineup, and when it might appear.

Think low-end. VW’s Seat brand — the pride of Spain — will be that bargain basement greenie’s home when it rolls out, probably in 2023, claims the brand’s CEO.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Luca de Meo said Seat will carry the torch for cheap electrics in the European market, rolling out a slew of electrified models to battle the likes of Nissan and Renault in the low-cost green field. Joining those future models will be the new, cheapest EV, built atop a sub-MEB platform.

“We spent so many years trying to fix our things so we couldn’t afford to get into the hottest and most innovative areas,” de Meo said of Seat’s recent return to profitability. “Now, because we are not busy with a fire brigade emergency, we can actually look a little bit more on the horizon.”

Seat will lead the new EV architecture’s development, apparently, with other VW Group brands adopting it for their own low-cost offerings. While we’re certainly not going to see a Seat offered in this market, a VW-badged model isn’t out of the question. A 21st-century green people’s car, perhaps — assuming the market looks sufficiently receptive to VW brass. Its appearance would only come after the North American market gets a taste of the automaker’s larger I.D. models, which include a crossover and a microbus.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess wants Seat to take on more responsibility beneath the corporate umbrella. Diess told de Meo as much during a meeting last week.

“It’s a recognition that we can play a different role in the group,” de Meo said.

While fielding the cheapest EV on the market would be a coup for Seat (the Smart brand might pose a challenge to that boast), not everyone’s impressed by the plan.

Arndt Ellinghorst, head of global automotive research at Evercore ISI, told FT it would be “impossible to make money” on a model at that price point using today’s battery technology.

“In terms of innovating, it’s the right step,” he said. “But I would try to not lose too much money on it. They don’t have the pricing power of Audi or VW.”

[Image: Electrify America/Volkswagen Group]

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4 of 6 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Apr 02, 2019

    For $22K you cannot even buy base Mazda3 - forget about EV - it never going to VW lost its collective mind. They should start with Audi not SEAT.

  • TheBrandler TheBrandler on Apr 03, 2019

    2 Years ago this month I remember listening to some presentations online where this "futurist" was predicting that EVs were at the beginning of their "S" curve and that by 2024, the first EVs would appear that are cheaper than their "ICE" equivalent with all the same features, and equal range. 2 years on now, he sounds just as crazy as he did then, and it's looking like there will never be such a thing as a cheap EV. And I do mean NEVER. By the time EVs drop in price such that they cost as much as a normal car, it will be circa 2030, and by that time, there will be no affordable cars at all unless you buy used.

    • See 1 previous
    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Apr 03, 2019

      @mcs Mass production of the new technology also means some leading indicators should appear, like huge investments in on-the-ground factories and announcements of extraordinary range or recharge capabilities in a specific new vehicle. Another indicator would be abandonment or reduction of traditional lithium ion battery supply chain commitments. Given that the design and planning cycle for such a mythical 2024 vehicle needs to start now, I doubt we're in store for any breakthrough technology in a showroom by then. Maybe in 10 years. Until then, we're likely going to see incremental improvements, and will have to settle for the slow pace.

  • MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
  • Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs.
  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.
  • Chris P Bacon I've always liked the looks of the Clubman, especially the original model. But like a few others here, I've had the Countryman as a rental, and for the price point, I couldn't see spending my own money on one. Maybe with a stick it would be a little more fun, but that 3 cylinder engine just couldn't provide the kick I expected.
  • EBFlex Recall number 13 for the 2020 Explorer and the 2020 MKExplorer.