‘ICE-based EVs a quick, pragmatic way to electrification in India’: Citroen CEO

    The Citroen C3 Aircross SUV will launch in the latter half of 2023; an electric version also expected in early 2024.

    Published On Apr 28, 2023 03:02:00 PM

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    With just 30 dealers and one mass-market model, the start of Citroen’s India innings has been slow and measured at best. The company sold a mere 775 units of the C5 Aircross in its first year of operations, and unlike other newcomers before it like MG and Kia, Citroen operated on a significantly lower volume base and is yet to make a meaningful impact in India. 

    • C-Cubed platform offers combustion, full-electric powertrains
    • No diesel engine on offer on C3 Aircross SUV
    • India a potential export base for EVs for Citroen

    However, with the all-electric eC3, which arrived barely six months after the ICE version, Citroen’s foray into the EV space has been very quick by industry standards. It has beaten well-established brands like Maruti Suzuki, Honda, Toyota and the Europeans to the game. Citroen’s strategy to develop the C-Cubed platform, the base for Citroen’s Indian-made models, to accommodate both combustion engine and all-electric powertrain options has paid off and given the French automaker a crucial head start in the market. With the eC3, Citroen is poised to become the second-largest electric carmaker after Tata Motors. The company sold 888 units of the eC3 in March 2023 and is looking at doubling the volumes in the next six months.

    Speaking to Autocar India at the global reveal of the C3 Aircross launch, Thierry Koskas, the global CEO of Citroen, said that an ICE conversion “is the most pragmatic way of doing EVs as it’s quick and cost-effective”, adding that this strategy of electrification has been done globally too. Whilst the company is also investing in dedicated electric platforms or ‘skateboards’ in the mid-term, Koskas believes the ICE-to-EV conversions are the way to go. In that vein, an electric version of the C3 Aircross is also on the cards and is expected in early 2024.

    Tata Motors is a case study on how to successfully convert ICE vehicles to EVs. The domination of the Nexon EV and the strong response to Tigor and Tiago EVs has prompted several manufacturers like Hyundai, Kia and Honda to explore this route for a quick entry into the EV space. In fact, with Corporate Average Fuel Economy or Efficiency (CAFE) penalties looming, launching EVs as fast as possible has become imperative to stay within CAFE limits.

    India a potential EV hub for Citroen

    Given India’s manufacturing cost advantage, Citroen is open to the idea of using India as an export base for EVs. “As our [Stellantis] CEO Carlos Tavares said, if we cannot manage to have competitive production in Europe, we could envisage exports from India,” said Koskas.

    The brand already exports the C3 hatchback as well as gearboxes from its plant in Chennai to other markets, so exporting EVs is certainly a possibility and could provide the Stellantis group with an advantage to take on Chinese manufacturers who have their sights set on the budget end of Europe’s EV market. “There are a lot of Chinese cars entering Europe with a very competitive price and I do not see any reason why we cannot do the same from India,” added Koskas.

    No more diesels

    So while electrics will be a clear focus for Citroen in India, diesels have been ruled out despite diesel commanding a 40 percent market share in the midsize SUV space. “The diesel trend is going down and it’s also a global policy for us to not invest too much in this space,” said Koskas. Hence, as it stands, the C5 Aircross will remain the only diesel in Citroen’s India portfolio whilst future models will all be petrol and electric.

    Also See:

    Citroen C3 Aircross makes global debut; India launch in late 2023

    Citroen C3 Aircross walkaround video

    Citroen Cars

    Copyright (c) Autocar India. All rights reserved.

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