Renault and VW may partner on low-cost BEV minicar

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Renault confirmed today that it is in talks with Volkswagen to build a BEV minicar for the European market.

The French automaker’s CEO, Luca de Meo, said at the Geneva Motor Show that the company is in “good discussions” with VW, according to a report in Automotive News Europe.

He also hinted that other partners were in the running, but didn’t name names: “I am open to anybody who wants to jump in. I have production capacity. I have the platform. I know how to do it.”

Last week, news hit that Volkswagen, Renault, and Stellantis were weighing possibly joining together to make cheaper electric vehicles – fearing it’s their only option. The urgency is growing as European automakers are being far outdistanced by BYD and Tesla, the latter of which sells more EVs in Europe than any other brand.

2024 has so far served up a series of obstacles impacting EV sales, and automakers have been left scrambling. Among the issues, some governments have reduced or dropped EV incentives, rental companies are scaling back on EVs, and anti-EV buzz is brewing during what will be a tense election year in the US and Europe. Even Tesla is feeling the burn at this point, with a 20% share low this year wiping out about $150 billion from its market capitalization, more than double VW’s value, Bloomberg writes.

To stay in the game, Renault is among the European automakers rushing to produce EVs that are at a similar price point to ICE vehicles – to avoid losing out to Chinese rivals that have Europe in their sites with low-cost EVs – BYD’s vehicles are arriving by the shipload.

Renault is eyeing 2026 for the launch of the full-electric minicar Twingo, with a target price below €20,000. The new electric Twingo will be based on a shortened version of the AmpR Small architecture found in the new Renault 5, which launched at the Geneva show. The Twingo will also use an LFP battery to cut costs.

Whether or not the deal happens with VW or another automaker, Renault will “forget ahead with the project with or without a partner,” the report said. “I don’t have any time to waste, so I will not postpone it,” de Meo said.

While Stellantis just launched a sub-€25,000 EV, the Citroen e-C3, with a short-range version to come at below €20,000, VW is falling behind in the race to build a cheaper BEV. Partnering with Renault could be a viable option to get a new version of the e-Up electric minicar and the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii up and running, the report said.

It certainly isn’t the first time European automakers have collaborated on minicars –Toyota partnered with Peugeot and Citroen on the Aygo/Peugeot 108/ Citroen C1 minicar, as well as Ford paired with Fiat to produce a second gen Ka on the Fiat 500 platform.

De Meo added that producing small cars profitably is a tall order, which is why so few automakers are doing it. But there is time to turn that around, and we’re seeing quite a few interesting new options coming out there, including the new Micolino Lite microcar.

For Renault’s part, it aims to cut costs on the new Twingo by 40% compared to other EVs by trimming back parts, reducing manufacturing times, using cheaper batteries, and ramping up speed to market. The company said it could then apply these same measures to its other EVs, including the newly launched Renault 5 and the upcoming Renault 4 small SUV.

“All the things that we will do in the Twingo will revert to the 5 and the 4, so their price will go down,” de Meo said.

Photo: Renault


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