The costs and timing of new emissions regulations may kill plans for a next-generation Volkswagen Golf, due in 2027.
There may not be another Volkswagen Golf – one of Europe’s best-selling cars – if new emissions regulations prove too expensive to meet, too soon.
“We will have to see whether it is worth developing a new vehicle that does not last the full seven or eight years [before emissions regulations force a switch to electric power],” said Schafer.
Developing a car with a short lifespan is “extremely expensive”, the executive said, adding: “We will know more in twelve months.”
The current Volkswagen ‘Golf 8’ launched in Europe at the end of 2019, before production ramped up in 2020 – so if Schafer’s suggested seven to eight-year life cycle is followed, the Golf 9 is not due in European showrooms until sometime in 2027.
If the car is launched at the end of 2027, that would leave seven years before the European Union plans to ban the sales of petrol and diesel cars – and five years before Volkswagen’s earliest target date to go fully electric, from 2033.
In the meantime, a facelifted version of the current Golf 8 is in development, Schafer says – which may arrive next year, or in 2024, based on the timing of mid-life updates for other Volkswagen models.
Schafer’s comments indicate Volkswagen has taken a step back from its announcement in early 2021, when it confirmed plans for a new Golf were underway, powered by a plug-in hybrid system offering up to 100km of claimed electric range.
“We will still need combustion engines for a while, but they should be as efficient as possible, which is why the next generation of our core products – all of which are world models – will also be fitted with the latest generation of plug-in hybrid technology, with an electric range of up to 100 kilometres”, former VW passenger cars boss Ralf Brandstätter said at the time.
While they may not be required to go electric-only until mid next decade, European car makers have signalled the difficulty in developing new small cars beyond 2025 – for a profit, and at a price point attractive to a consumer.
This is attributed to the cost in developing engines to meet the latest Euro 7 emission rules – and the size of the battery pack required to achieve a long electric driving range and lower CO2 emissions ratings.
Instead, car brands are targeting fully-electric power for their next small cars – which are planned to become more affordable as battery costs come down, while emitting zero emissions (from the car itself, at least).
If the Golf is axed, Volkswagen would join a range of other car makers ditching their iconic small-car nameplates, irrespective of powertrain.
The Ford Focus and Renault Megane look unlikely to get new generations – as SUVs increase in popularity – while reports suggest the Hyundai i30 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class will not be replaced.
The Peugeot 308 is safe with petrol and hybrid power until around 2028 or 2029 – while a new Audi A3 is planned, but with full battery power.
Volkswagen’s range of ID electric vehicles currently contains a Golf-sized hatchback, the ID.3 – though it will expand from 2025 with a smaller electric city car sized similarly to a Polo.
The small Volkswagen – now indicated to wear the ID.2 badge – will form part of a project led by VW’s Spanish subsidiary Cupra, and will spawn four similarly-sized twins under the skin: the VW ID.2, the Cupra UrbanRebel, a version from Skoda, and according to Welt, a second Volkswagen model.
Volkswagen was previously said to be targeting a base price below €20,000 ($AU29,600) – however this has seemingly increased to €25,000 ($AU37,000) amid rising material and production costs, based on Schafer’s comments.
“We plan to offer the ID.2 for less than 25,000 euros. In three years’ time, that will be a super attractive price for an electric vehicle,” said Schäfer, adding that the 350km to 400km claimed ranges the new cars will offer is “the psychological sell point at the moment.”
The executive has ruled out the return of budget-priced €10,000 ($AU15,000) petrol-powered micro cars, as the cost to build petrol engines to meet Euro 7 emissions standard in force from 2025 is €3000 to €5000 ($AU4400 to $AU7400) than it is today.
“With a small car, these additional costs can hardly be absorbed. So entry-level mobility with combustion engines will be significantly more expensive,” Schafer said. “[But] individual mobility is a basic need and must remain achievable in the future.”
Volkswagen Australia’s electric vehicle rollout is expected to begin next year, with the ID.4 and ID.5 mid-size SUVs. Sister brand Cupra is due to launch its version of the VW ID.3, the Cupra Born, early next year.