Citroën joins discussion about future mobility
29 May 2019
Author: Simon Harris
The firm's boss was at VivaTech 2019, where it showcased two concepts. Simon Harris reports.
Citroën chose VivaTech 2019 in Paris rather than a motor show to unveil its latest concept car - a study in how people might want to travel long distances in the future.
The 19_19 Concept (pictured above), named to mark the founding of Citroën 100 years ago, stood alongside the Ami One city car concept (pictured below) revealed at the Geneva motor show in March.
Both cars represent a different model of future mobility, and Citroën CEO Linda Jackson took part in a discussion led by FIA president Jean Todt, along with Frederic Mazzella, CEO and founder of car pooling platform BlaBlaCar, and Martin Villig, founder of Bolt.Eu, the company behind the Hopp ride-hailing app.
The 19_19 aims to create "a living room on wheels", according to Citroën, with a near 500-mile range on electricity and loads of autonomous technology.
Jackson said: "19_19 Concept is our technological and innovative vision of the automotive future. It conserves the fundamentals that have made Citroën what it is over the last 100 years, a brand that listens to its customers and systematically focuses on human aspects, consistent with its 'Inspired by You' brand signature. Design, creativity, comfort and innovation are and will remain central to Citroën's DNA, as demonstrated by 19_19 Concept."
According to Citroën, the 19_19 reinvents long car journeys through 'ultra-comfort', bringing its occupants regenerative and restorative travel.
The vehicle has a futuristic design, especially its oversized 30in wheels, and Citroën says occupants enjoy a true 'mental detox' experience for maximum travelling pleasure, total relaxation, calmness and well-being. It is a counterpoint to the Ami One, which is also electric and autonomous, but is designed for use around town.
"By 2050, 68% of us will be living in cities, so we need urban mobility," Jackson explained. "Ami One is electric and would be offered on a range of procurement models including rental and ownership."
She said people would be able to rent the Ami One for five minutes, five days, or own it for five years, depending on customer needs.
"But 60% of people living in the cities will want to go away from the cities for the weekend, and 19_19 serves those customers," she added.
Responding to a question by Todt on how car manufacturers are gearing up to meet the EU objective of ensuring complete transportation is accessible to all road users by 2030, she said Citroën has even broader aims.
"There are strong objectives, but we also need to bring in the CO2 emissions reduction issues - the EC targets that we have to meet - too," Jackson said.
"We have no choice but to take this direction because that is where society is moving us. As car manufacturers we have to adapt and invest - no manufacturer can do without electric cars in the future. The customer leads the way, and clearly we have to follow."
She said vehicle manufacturers are not in competition with car-pooling services and ride-hailing apps, and in many ways they complement each other as consumers adopt different ownership models for cars.
"Often people say the manufacturers are in competition with ride sharing companies,' Jackson said. "But I don't think that is true. There are many different types of consumers who need different things. There are still people who want to buy cars, or have access to cars, or rent cars.
"We have an ecosystem that will satisfy many customers, and support these options. Our Ami One concept fits into this model. The world is changing and we recognise that."
Mazzella said he was inspired to set up BlaBlaCar when he was on a crowded train journey and observed almost empty cars on a nearby road.
"We fill up cars because they are all empty," he said. "Cars are empty on the roads. They consume a lot of energy and cost a lot to run.
"We made 90 million rides in 2018 - nine times more than the people transported by Eurostar.
"And since we placed many people in cars, we took more empty cars off the roads and saved 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 - more than the entire road emissions of a city like Paris in an entire year."
He added that shared costs are appealing, making trips cheaper for drivers, and less expensive for passengers, and while it took seven years for BlaBlaCars to reach a million members globally, it is now able to add a million new members in two weeks.
Villig founded Bolt.Eu five years ago to aggregate local taxis, which he said was a huge challenge to coordinate with the number of taxi companies operating. Hopp now has a global presence, including members in London.
Responding to questions of safety and trust in car-pooling, Mazzella said all BlaBlaCar members were registered, submitting information about themselves, with a profile picture and bio, as well as ratings from previous car poolers.
"Trust is very important," he said.
Quizzed on how car manufacturers can help improve safety through autonomous technology, Jackson said it was important not to lose sight of current safety features and technology, and ensure the purchase cost of cars doesn't become prohibitive.
"The technology has to be about improving safety and making our lives easier;" she said.
"There are many safety technologies already on the cars - lane departure correction and automatic braking - but some of the technologies are so expensive that it would be difficult for customers in developing countries to afford it.
"We also shouldn't forget the basics. Seatbelts have saved many lives, and it is a very simple device. We have to be careful that we don't make our cars so expensive that people can't afford them. We need to focus on the most appropriate ones."