Friday, December 1, 2023

Will the Ami help Citroen befriend India?


Avik Chattopadhyay

Citroen Ami is a fully electric quadricycle, which would compete with Mahindra Atom and Bajaj Qute.

This is my third and last in a series of articles on the Citroen brand entering India. And I thank this platform for allowing me this indulgence as I have always been in awe and intrigue about this brand. The fact that I worked in PSA Groupe for some time further helped matters. Personally, I believe the Citroen DS is the epitome of all that the automobile world stands for as the perfect amalgam of art, architecture, engineering, and technology. Now to the article…

As part of their press announcements in India, Citroen also hinted at the “Ami” being explored for their newest market. The Ami is a 100% electric quadricycle launched in February 2020 based on the 2019 Ami Concept.

For those who may not know, this is the relaunch of the Ami brand by Citroen after 4 decades. Its first avatar was in 1961 as a step up from the hugely popular but rustic and rudimentary 2CV. This was the perfect city family car that made you look stylish while delivering a high level of efficiency and robustness from its 602cc engine.

Beating the Renault 4 by four odd months to the market, the Ami was the first car not to use the traditional round headlamp but a rectangular / lozenge shape! That was a key show-off for the vehicle though it could not be sold in the US where non-round headlamps were ‘illegal’ till 1975!! Another key feature of the Ami was that the seats could be easily taken out for picnics. That made it true to its name which means “friend”.

The Ami has all the right ingredients for befriending a larger part of India, in a manner that is out-of-the-box and more sustainable.

Apart from France, the vehicle was made and sold in Spain, erstwhile Yugoslavia [in a joint venture called Cimos] and Argentina [for the entire South American market] in sedan and estate styles, clocking up an impressive 1.8 million units till it was put to rest in 1978.

When Citroen started a project for new-world electric city mobility in mid 2010s, they could not think up a better name than Ami for the concept they unveiled in 2019.

Citroen AMI

Getting into production in 2020 at their plant in Morocco, the new Ami is classic Citroen…quirky yet striking, simple yet elegant. Frills have been kept to a minimum as this is intended as a rental mobility solution rather than an owned one. Costs were key to its proposition and disruptive thinking has been used and implemented – the two doors are the same, including the hinges; the front and rear bumpers are the same; there is no third door/hatch as all access to the storage area is from the side doors. And making it in Morocco certainly keeps costs down.

The Ami, being a quadricycle, does have its limitations of dimensions, weight, and speed. But that is exactly what it wants to be…an electric quadricycle that provides on-the-tap mobility to anybody in the city. It is everyone’s ‘Ami’.

Citroen AMI

The Ami will be a very interesting proposition for India. Two things go for it – electric and quadricycle. While we all are aware of the first reason, the second is a phenomenon waiting to happen in this market.

In India, the quadricycle was finally approved as a vehicle category by the government in 2018 after years of intense lobbying by a couple of automakers

The quadricycle is basically a four-wheeled microcar, limited by regulations of size, weight and speed to be used only within city limits. Popular in Europe for decades, France has been a leader of sorts with many manufacturers in the fray. Mainstream automakers like Renault and Citroen battle it out with specialists like Aixam and Venturi.

Citroen AMI

In India, the quadricycle was finally approved as a vehicle category by the government in 2018 after years of intense lobbying by a couple of automakers and equally intense stonewalling by the others. Here the regulations are simple enough – the vehicle cannot exceed 475 kgs in unladen weight and has to meet the safety and emission norms of mainstream vehicles. In that respect, the quadricycles in India are a step ahead of their European counterparts.

The Bajaj Qute, in production since 2013, finally got formally ‘classified’ on its own merit and not be clubbed in three-wheelers. Bajaj had developed the vehicle with inputs from Renault and unveiled at the Auto Expo 2012. Eight years later, at the Auto Expo in 2020, Mahindra unveiled the Atom as competition to the Qute. The pandemic has delayed its commercial launch by a year.

The electric quadricycle is a segment waiting to happen.

The electric quadricycle is a segment waiting to happen. It has all it takes to remap mobility in India, across urban and rural applications. This is the ideal last-mile self-driven transport solution, right from use in large industrial complexes, tourist destinations, educational institutions to village medical centres. They need not be owned by individuals. Corporates and institutions with large complexes will operate fleets, just like they now do with bicycles.

For individual use, they will be operated by mobility solution providers, on rental by the hour, or even by the minute [as in the case of Free2Move in France]. They are an alternative to the motorcycles used by tourists to move about in their cities of visit. They can be used right at the village panchayat and primary healthcare centre levels to ensure rapid and reliable movement whenever required. Given the size of the battery, charging will be much easier and rid of anxiety.

The Ami has all the right ingredients for befriending a larger part of India, in a manner that is out-of-the-box and more sustainable. This could be an investment that pays off for the Citroen brand in their newest market!

Also Read: Citroen’s Traction Inde: Citroen and its ‘BioFlex’ in India

Avik Chattopadhyay
Avik Chattopadhyay
Avik Chattopadhyay is the co-creator of Expereal India. Also, former marketing head, product planning and PR at Volkswagen India. He was associated with Maruti Suzuki, Apollo Tyres and Groupe PSA as well.


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