They were almost 60 ten years ago. They are only about fifteen today. The car models invoiced for less than 15,000 euros entry-level are increasingly rare on the French market. And this, despite the growing success of so-called cars low-cost, offered by Dacia in particular since the mid-2000s. A simple glance at the statistics (above) is enough to become aware of the phenomenon.
Number of models invoiced for less than 15,000 euros at the entry level:
However, over the period considered, inflation never exceeded 2.1% per year according to INSEE figures. The explanation is therefore not to be found in a massive increase in the cost of living.
=> Cars less than 15,000 euros: the list of models available in 2021
The gentrified city dwellers?
Several factors explain this decline of the popular car. First, the virtual disappearance of “small” engines – less than 90 hp – on versatile city cars (Renault Clio, Peugeot 208, Volkswagen Polo, Toyota Yaris, Opel Corsa, Ford Fiesta…). In recent years, stricter European environmental standards – particularly on the CO2 side – have prompted manufacturers to reduce engine capacity and increase development spending to contain emissions. Gone are the days when the timeless Renault Cléon-Fonte engine could span decades, from Florida to the Clio …
Another notable change on models in this segment. Today’s versatile city cars measure the same size as yesterday’s compacts, forcing manufacturers to adopt more powerful mills and to focus their efforts on weight reductions to maintain correct performance while improving their comfort. The prices follow logically …
- Peugeot 306 (1993): 4.03 m
- Peugeot 208 (2021): 4.05 m
However, the strategy of manufacturers (for example Peugeot, under the leadership of Carlos Tavares), has evolved in recent years: the concern for volumes has been exceeded by that of the margin achieved on each vehicle sold. Registering at all costs a Clio or an entry-level 208 and with little profitability has little interest in this scheme. Clearly, traditional manufacturers have deserted this sector, now monopolized in Western Europe by Dacia.
Entry-level prices for versatile city cars in 2021:
- Opel Corsa: from 15,250 euros
- Citroën C3: from 15,300 euros
- Renault Clio: from 15,300 euros
- Peugeot 208: from 16,000 euros
They have everything big … even the prices! The growing share of long-term rental or rental with an option to purchase, however, makes these growing rates difficult to understand for customers.
The domination of Dacia?
Especially since the low-cost devoured this access market. By using proven parts, by limiting the choice of customization or by relocating production to countries where labor is less expensive (Romania, Morocco, etc.), Dacia has succeeded in offering larger and more versatile vehicles at a price. unbeatable catalog for A and B segment cars.
=> Renault Clio vs Dacia Sandero: which one to choose? – VIDEO
To date, the Dacia Sandero is the only existing offer in France presented at the entry level with a face price less than 10,000 euros with a 3-cylinder 65 hp. However, the bulk of sales are made on better motorized versions around 12 to 14,000 euros… Precisely the area where the entry-level general-purpose city cars used to operate. Today in Europe, the Dacia Sandero is the most registered car by individuals.
=> Dacia Sandero: the city car on the financial side
=> 2000 km in Dacia Sandero: our verdict
A l’inverse, imports from Lada – a low-cost pioneer via imports from the Poch group in the 1980s – have ceased in France, following the sanctions adopted by the European Union against Russia in March 2014. Annexation de facto of the Crimea also had repercussions on the brave Niva …
Too limited micro-city cars?
Another trend: the gradual withdrawal of manufacturers from the micro-city car market. Example? Stellantis sold its shares in the Kolin site (Czech Republic) to Toyota, specializing in the assembly of A segment cars. The Peugeot 108 and Citroën C1, currently at the end of their career and now only available in 5-door versions, will not have direct descendants. Just like the Renault Twingo 3, which owes its unusual architecture (rear engine) to a now obsolete collaboration between the Losange and Smart.
Number of models offered under 10,000 euros at the entry level:
- 2006 : 21
- 2016 : 13
- 2021 : 1
The low-cost and the still dynamic second-hand market have made micro-city cars unattractive, given their natural limits (roominess, comfort, safe, etc.). Attempts to import vehicles destined for developing markets by traditional manufacturers (Suzuki Celerio and Mitsubishi Space Star in Thailand, Ford Ka + in India) have only resulted in disappointing sales figures in Western Europe. The standards of European drivers remain higher… or the network fails to convince customers.
The Korean brands or Fiat – which had taken a big advantage over these chips in the 2000s – nevertheless remain loyal to this micro-city car market, with the Kia Picanto and the recent Hyundai i10. But here too, the impact of environmental standards is being felt: in recent months, Turin thus adopted the (very) light hybridization on his 500 and Panda. The latter thus saw its price rise by 15% suddenly at the entry level, despite the modesty of the on-board electrical system (12V lithium battery + starter alternator).
Elsewhere, we cease production of thermal versions on these micro-city cars. Smart has abandoned production of its petrol ForTwo (incidentally, the brand is relocating production – so far carried out in Hambach, France, to China). At the same time, the Volkswagen group has given up selling the thermal versions of its up! and Seat Mii. Result: these small cars of less than 3.60 meters exceed 20,000 euros in the catalog.
Towards a new wave
The massification of the supply of electric vehicles could transform the landscape. First proof: the great success of the Citroën Ami. Despite many industrialization concerns, this license-free cart for 6,900 euros finds its audience, between eco-concerned peri-urban areas and car-sharing.
When it comes to “real” cars, the equation has more unknowns. The still high cost of batteries still does not allow manufacturers to offer a first price. Despite its assembly in China and its limited services, the Dacia Spring is billed for nearly 17,000 euros… before the ecological bonus comes into play. State intervention lowers the note to 12,400 euros. While waiting for the (possible) drop in cell prices, it will therefore be the public authorities who will artificially crush the prices.
Photo from: Getty Images
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