Volkswagen Group's Seat unit gave a first glimpse of a small electric SUV that it aims to build for the VW, Audi and Skoda brands.
The EV would be aimed at urban buyers and would make electric cars affordable for the mass-market, Seat CEO Wayne Griffiths said during the brand's annual press conference on Monday.
The car would be about the same size as the Seat Arona small SUV and would cost between 20,000 euros and 25,000 euros ($24,000-$30,000), Griffiths said.
Seat released a sketch of the car that showed an SUV-inspired design.
Seat plans to build the car at its Martorell plant near Barcelona in Spain, starting in 2025, Griffiths said.
The automaker aims to make more than 500,000 urban EVs for itself and other VW Group brands, he said.
Griffiths said it will be the first car to use VW Group's MEB entry platform. Seat would build versions for the VW and Skoda brands, and possibly Audi, he said.
Griffiths said no decision has been made yet on whether Seat will sell the car as a Seat or Cupra model.
VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said during the automaker's annual press conference on March 16 that the group will launch full-electric cars about the size of the VW Polo starting in 2025.
By that time, battery cell technology should be advanced enough for the cars to be sold at an attractive price for entry-level buyers, Diess said.
Diess earlier this month disclosed plans to turn the Cupra performance marque into a full-electric brand and make only battery-powered cars at the Martorell factory.
VW Group said on March 15 that it plans to have six battery cell production plants in Europe by 2030 to secure supply for its EV push.
The locations of two plants, in Germany and Sweden, have been announced. "Seat would like to be part of it," Griffiths said, adding that a plant would need to be located near Martorell or nearby in Barcelona.
Both VW Group and Seat executives have said that the plan depends on the approval of financial and other support from Spanish and EU authorities.
Seat already sells the Mii minicar, which switched to electric power from combustion engines in 2019. The company sold 7,364 units of the Mii last year, almost all electric versions, down 40 percent on the year before, figures from JATO Dynamics show.
The Cupra Born compact battery-powered hatchback will go on sale later this year. The Born shares the MEB platform with the VW ID3 and ID4, Skoda Enyaq and upcoming Audi Q4 e-tron.
Automakers are ramping up their plans to launch small EVs because they expect demand to boom in the coming years.
Renault plans to build a retro-styled affordable small electric car that revives the design of the Renault 5. Renault CEO Luca de Meo, the former head of Seat, said the sub-30,000-euro target price could be met by using cheaper lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cathodes for the battery.
Small EVs currently on the market include the Renault Zoe, Fiat New 500, Honda e and full-electric versions of the Peugeot 208 and Opel Corsa. Renault also has two smaller EVs, the Twingo electric version and Dacia Spring.
Gov't support needed
Griffiths said a small EV was the key to Seat’s success in selling electric cars in its home country.
"If we want to build electric cars in Spain we need to sell electric cars in Spain," he said. "A big part of the market is small cars therefore we need an offer in that part of the market."
The success of Seat’s plan to produce of the small EV in Martorell however rested on Spain’s ability to persuade more people in the country to buy electric cars. "It's absolutely essential that the government makes electric mobility accessible with support,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths said Spain was at the “tail end” of other European countries with a 4.7 percent share of plug-in vehicles sold in Spain last year, compared to 13 percent for Germany, 11 percent for the UK and 10 percent for France. He said Spain should aim for 10 percent plug-in sales for 2021.