Volkswagen Group's Seat brand will lead development of full-electric city cars that will cost less than 20,000 euros ($22,500).
The small EVs will use a shortened version of VW Group's Modular Electric Drive Toolkit (MEB) architecture. They will be subcompact-sized at about 4000mm (1575 inches) long.
Seat will launch the first model in the family around 2023, then "multiple versions" will be sold across the group’s brands, VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said.
The small EV family will be a great step toward an "even more affordable electric mobility," Diess told journalists at a press conference at Seat’s headquarters in Martorell, Spain, on Wednesday.
Diess told the Spanish media that the small MEB models will be sold by the VW, Seat and Skoda brands and will replace the battery variants of the VW Up, Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii.
VW Group is expected to end production of the internal combustion engine variants of the Up, Citigo and Mii mincars in 2022.
Finding savings will be key to tackle the high cost associated with electric cars compared with their combustion engine equivalents.
Diess said the platform will be cheap enough to keep down retail prices. "It enables us to realize the first electric vehicle that is especially designed for urban journeys available for less than 20,000 euros," he said.
The low cost and urban use projected for the family suggests a limited range compared with cars on the standard MEB platform that will debut on the Golf-sized VW I.D. hatchback early next year, followed by a Seat version previewed by the el-Born concept at the Geneva show earlier this month and compact EVs for Skoda and Audi.
Seat has said el- Born production version will have a range of up to 420 km (261 miles) under the WLTP test cycle.
Seat CEO Luca de Meo said more than 300 engineers will work on the entry level EVs at the brand's technical center. The decision where to build the cars has not been made, he said.
So far only Skoda's Kvasiny plant in the Czech Republic has been named by VW Group as a production site for the MEB entry range, but it’s not clear if Skoda will build the car for other brands, as it does with the Seat Ateca SUV produced in Kvasiny.
Seat's electric push
Seat will launch six electrified cars by 2021. These include two full-electric cars and four plug-in hybrids.
The EVs will be a battery-powered version of the Mii in 2020. It will be based on the VW e-Up, which is already on sale. The Mii EV will follow the Skoda Citigo EV, which goes on sale later this year.
The Mii EV will be "an appetizer, a way for us to test and learn about the electric car value chain,” de Meo was quoted as saying by Auto Express magazine.
The Mii EV will be followed later in 2020 by the e--Born production car.
Seat's four plug-in hybrids will be a plug-in hybrid versions of the new Leon compact car due next year and the current Tarraco midsize SUV. Seat's performance Cupra brand will have a plug-in hybrid version of its Leon-based compact car. The fourth will be a plug-in version of the Cupra Formentor, which was shown in concept form at the Geneva show.
After a history of being VW Group's money-loser, Seat has been profitable in the past two years. Operating profit increased to 254 million euros in 2018, a record for the brand, from 191 million in 2017, VW Group said on March 12.
Seat's vehicle sales rose 11 percent to 517,600.
"Seat now has a clearer role in the Volkswagen Group, and thanks to the results obtained, we have earned the new electric vehicle platform," De Meo said.