If that means keeping it in the range right up until the 2030 cut-off for internal combustion engined cars on sale, then so be it. Even if inflation keeps the list price creeping up (£13,400 currently in the Picanto’s case), then the target is to keep monthly payments low with good residual values.
“What is important is the monthly payment that people can afford,” said Philpott, although he concedes rising interest rates mean “the days of 0%, 1.9%” in interest rates for new cars are over.
The city car segment in the UK consists now of the Picanto and the closely related Hyundai i10. The Toyota Aygo X is a slightly different offering, morphing into a mini crossover, but no less admirable in its mission: even if the legislation is effectively trying to force cars like this off the road, Toyota knows it has a social and moral responsibility to continue offering affordable new cars for as long as possible.
Dacia is a company that has built its whole business on offering affordable cars (and it does so), and the market is moving towards it. Boss Denis le Vot has been prepared to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Euro NCAP in deducting safety rating stars – and therefore potentially causing reputational issues for car makers with ‘unsafe’ cars – by not introducing active safety technology. “We don’t sell you lane-keeping assist as we know you turn it off,” he says.
Le Vot is another who has pledged to only go electric at the last possible moment, as cars must stay affordable.
Plenty of others get it, too. The increasingly powerful and influential Volkswagen boss Thomas Schafer rubbished the European Commission’s suggestion that EU7 would be “affordable” in adding around €300 to the price of new cars. He thinks it will be more like €5000, and the end of the Polo is predicted as a result. VW’s comeback in this segment will be electric, and the goal is set to make it cost the same as today’s Polo, a big challenge with the greater cost of batteries.
Then there’s the ever-quotable Stellantis chief Carlos Tavares, who predicts there “will be social unrest” unless politicians realise that the political decision (one he calls “dogmatic and naive”) to move to electric is simply pricing the middle classes out of new cars, and allows for a stay of execution for today’s never-cleaner or more efficient internal combustion engine models as new cars they can afford.