Volkswagen’s “Think Small” is ranked as the most successful campaign in advertising history according to AdAge.com. The ad campaign ranks ahead of iconic Nike’s “Just do it,” Clairol’s “Does she … or doesn’t she,” and Apple’s “1984.” VW’s agency DDB launched the “Think Small” campaign in 1959. The VW Beetle soared in popularity at the same time that GM, Ford and Chrysler cars were expanding, adding weight and growing fins.
Today, buyers looking for good value and fuel economy find subcompacts appealing and hatchback versions flexible in handling four passengers and cargo space. Popular models include Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, and Chevrolet Sonic. The new Prius “c” hybrid with an expected 60+ miles per gallon is likely to shake-up this entire category.
In cities where paid parking can cost $20, $30, or even $50 per day, microcompact city cars have loyal fans for maneuverability, fun driving, and squeezing in free parking spaces. Drivers love their MiniCoopers, Fiat 500s, Smart fortwos, and still love their VW Bugs.
Electric city cars are a great match for small car lovers. Most city drivers need far less than the range of smaller electric cars which may be limited to 50 miles on highways but double that cruising city streets and benefitting from regenerative braking. The new electric cars are fun, hip, and sized for crowded cities.
The electric city car sales leader is the Mitsubishi i. It can be purchased for $29,125, which is about $6,000 less than the larger Nissan LEAF. The Mitsubishi I only requires 16kW of lithium batteries; the LEAF, 24KW. Smaller lighter electric cars go farther with a kilowatt and therefore require less energy storage.
Even smaller than the Mitsubishi I is the Mercedes Smart fortwo electric drive. Car2go has 300 of these being used daily in its San Diego car sharing program. This innovative program allows members to get in the two-seat EV at one location, park at a different location, and walk away. The Smart ED makes it easy for members to find parking places.
With most of our planet’s 7 billion people now living in urban density, automakers see a big future for city electric cars. I recently saw several at the LA Auto Show. Over 10 small electric cars will be on display at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Mitsubishi is taking electric city car orders and Smart is putting its electric fortwo in car sharing and fleet programs. They better move fast, because the competition is bringing many small electric cars to the U.S. in the next two years. Honda Fit EV will sales will soon start at a rather steep $36,200. GM will follow the success of its Chevrolet Volt with a less expensive, pure electric Spark EV. There is a Fiat 500 EV that may start sales next year.
Next to the U.S. may be an Infinity sport subcompact. Toyota Motor Corporation will go beyond its hybrid car leadership and bring us an exciting Scion IQ Electric.
The automaker that started “Think Small” is developing several electric cars including the Volkswagen E-up.
An electric car does not need to be a microcompact to get great range. It can be a hot sports car like the Tesla Roadster with its 240-mile range, or the Audi e-tron Spyder diesel plug-in hybrid, or the BMW i8 that Tom Cruise drives in Mission Impossible 4.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance is developing a portfolio of electric cars that go beyond its successful 5-seat Nissan LEAF to include smaller urban mobility EV and larger electric vans.
For many that live in cities or university towns, an electric city car will be all that they want, especially with the availability of car sharing, transit and rail for other needs. Households with two and more cars will consider a small electric car as one of their cars to save money, have fun, and win the parking space battle.