Brands killing off small cars due to emissions regulations

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Words: Matthew Hansen
27 Jul 2021

The European Union’s upcoming Euro 7 emissions standards have forced several car manufacturers into a rethink, particularly when it comes to their smallest platforms on sale.

A few years ago, ‘superminis’ seemed untouchable in Europe, considered favourable by regulators and brands for their low emissions — particularly during the rise of SUV sales. But now, multiple manufacturers are pulling their small cars out of showrooms because it’s too expensive to make them comply with Euro 7.

The latest example of this is Audi and its diminutive A1. Audi CEO Markus Duesmann confirmed in a recent interview with Automotive News Europe that the model was going to be cancelled — barely a few years after its latest update was launched.

“We won’t have a successor to the A1. We know that offering combustion engines in the smaller segments in the future will be pretty difficult because the costs will go up. Therefore, we will leave the segment,” Duesmann said.

Audi isn’t alone. The Opel Adam and Opel Karl have both recently been dropped, and — according to reports — Peugeot and Citroen are expected to drop their equivalent models, the 108 and C1 respectively.

The core issue is that these models have such small profit margins that brands like Audi and Opel cannot justify making wholesale changes to their mechanicals. It’s easier and more profitable to simply shelve them.

It’s expected that manufacturers in Europe will lower their CO2 output average across their respective fleets to 95g/km. In a car like an A1, this is near impossible to achieve without making the car a hybrid.

Of course, a lot of this is likely to be moot in a few years as Europe moves to phase out internal combustion engines entirely by 2035. Proposed legislation was announced earlier this month, and is expected to pass.

The A1’s issue is likely to be the gain of the likes of Toyota and Honda. Its subcompact offerings, the Yaris and the Jazz, already come with hybrid powertrains. Who knows. By 2035, the A1 and its peers might have all been reborn in pure electric form.

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