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Bringing Back Local French Icon Renault 5 Is Not An Option To Replace Leading European BEV Star Renault ZOE

As I wrote before, Renault managers still have trouble understanding what is happening in the car market. It is as if they have fallen for the BMW suggestion that electric driving is nice for neighborhood shopping and driving the kids to school, but for serious driving you need an internal combustion engine vehicle.

Renault calls its current BEV offerings — the ZOE, Twingo, and Spring — city-cars. But they are not what a city-car used to be. A city-car was, thanks to its small size and agility, able to have a brisk driving character in the city, where the large limousines were handicapped by their size. But a city-car was able to travel very well all over Europe fully loaded with teens and adolescents, as many of my generation can testify in our best travel stories.

The new generation of city-cars are really city-only-cars. My Zoe50 is about the most capable of this generation. It is at the top of its class with its roominess and range. Its charging speed is too low, but not much lower than the charging speed of many of its competitors.

The Zoe is getting long in the tooth. The years are starting to show. That it is still competitive is thanks to previous management, which was able to listen to the market and add more range when the marketing department said that range was big enough with the 40kWh battery and all improvements should be used to lower costs and consumer price. The competition, meanwhile, listened to the marketing gobbledygook. It offers lower range at a not-really-lower price.

To replace this model in 3 years with an even older looking and likely smaller model that doesn’t offer more range is not showing a feel for the market. The market for city-only-cars is small in the segment of new sold cars. When they are 10 or 15 years old, then they are acceptable as city-only-cars for shopping and not much else.

The European small car icons of those old days were the VW Beetle, Citroen 2CV, Fiat 500, and last but not least, the Morris Mini Cooper. The Renault 5 was perhaps popular in France, and it was absolutely less anonymous compared to many of the other models of those days. It was never a European icon. This is Renault receding from Europe back into France. The nostalgia angel might work for some, but it could also fail.

The Fiat 500 was a simple and cheap vehicle back in the days. Now it is a luxury model with a trim level and sportiness that would have earned it a Lancia or Abarth nameplate. It is en vogue by the high-earning yuppie, not the original customer base without money. For those, there is still the Fiat Panda, regretfully not yet electric.

MINI has grown under the BMW tutelage into a popular yuppie brand, from small to midsize. It has the styling and the name of its ancestor, not its eccentricity or low price.

The reintroduction of the VW Beetle as an expensive nostalgia model was a failure. That retro Chrysler has also never reached the numbers its makers hoped for.

Replacing the bestselling European BEV of 2020, and now still in its class, with a retro model without improving on its biggest weakness, its range, is a strange gamble at the least. Build the new ZOE on the CMF-EV (not CMF-BEV) platform. Size it between the Mégane and the R5. Stuff it with as many batteries as there is room in the chassis, at least 80kWh for the LR version. The charging speed should be at least 2C up to 60% SoC.

Range is much more important than performance in this class and price segment. Give it enough power that it can tow a small camper during the holidays, a practical trunk, back seats that fold down to create a flat floor, and make sure a ski-box is easily fitted to the roof. Even city cars should be able to bring a group of friends or a young family to the snow or to the sun. That is the model that can replace the Clio. It can become, just like the Clio, the bestselling model in its class in Europe.

The best-known European BEV model with better specs than the competition is a sure winner. The R5 will do great as replacement of the Twingo Z.E. The Dacia Spring will fill the market segment the original R5 occupied, and its next version will have a bigger battery and faster charging.. The 4ever is for young families with baby-beds, strollers, and a pair of large dogs. At least, that was the market when I was a teen.

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Written By

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric. And putting my money where my mouth is, I have bought Tesla shares. Intend to keep them until I can trade them for a Tesla car. I added some Fastned, because driving without charging is no fun.


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