A weekly look at all that sucks in the automotive industry, and some good bits
Friendly by name, friendly by nature
Lay aside the unprepossessing orange and black cubist box. This is the Citroen AMI ONE, probably the slowest concept vehicle outside of the ludicrous but oddly prophetic Sinclair C5. It will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show. You won’t need a licence to drive it; the electric engine has a low output, top speed 30 mph, assuming you have a light breeze behind the car. It’s designed as cheap, very cheap inner-city transport.
The AMI is a pure-electric two-seater that can be driven by those as young as 16 years of age. That’s because it fits into quadricycle regulations – the same formula used by several small-scale French manufacturers, including Renault with its Tonka animated Twizy.
The friendly name AMI ONE has echoes of old classic Citroens and appears to have issued from a brief of making it as quirky and as easy to live with and fix as the 2CV, loved by many in the past. It could well mark the smallest model the firm will ever make.
The reasoning and the statistics
Citroen’s design chief Jean-Arthur Madelaine is as open and honest as they come: “When the 2CV was created for the masses they were living mainly in rural areas, so it was a car for the countryside. Now the trend for young people is that they are less interested in cars but like mobility, especially in the cities. This is the vision behind AMI ONE.”
As small as an IKEA flat pack wardrobe but ready assembled no screws missing, it measures 2.5 metres long, a banana’s length shorter than my cute Smart ForTwo. The doors open in different directions. An electric motor drives the rear wheels and a lithium-ion battery pack is mounted across the floor. It can travel around 60 miles on a single charge. The AMI weighs as much as three Scotland rugby players and can probably be lifted by two into a tight parking spot.
And now for the really clever bits: inside, the AMI ONE’s adherence to absolute simplicity takes advantage of the growing addiction to smartphones. Missing are an infotainment screen and an instrument panel. To the right of the “Drive-Pod” sits a cylinder with a start button, warning button, automatic gearbox selector and a Bluetooth speaker with volume control. The driver lays their phone in an area beyond the instrument display and it’s reflected back towards the driver’s eye-line by a perspex panel, allowing interaction (via voice commands or steering wheel buttons) with a number of apps. You can compare it to a modern flat television screen which uses voice commands to find the channel or programme you want to see.
There’s nothing conventional about the interior other than two seats and a steering wheel. The roof folds back, the doors open in different directions, and if ever caught short, so to speak, you can lift out the battery pack to install a new one for an immediate restart. The bodywork is rust free plastic.
Italians adore the Smart car, they’re everywhere, often in packs. They will love the AMI. Can it carry a slain mafia foot soldier to the river’s edge? No. The cabin is small but functional. Tight boot space means propping the body upright in the passenger’s seat, or if none, tossing your shopping or possessions in the same place.
As regular readers will attest, this site has no embarrassment promoting small electric vehicles for daily use or cross-city commutes, and Scottish winters where a cycle or motorbike are of little use. The smaller the better to park two in a bay.
There is nothing more selfish than driving a barge through a city, five empty seats around you, and only a spare wheel and the tyre jack in the boot. To see a line of driver-only cars waiting at the traffic lights while folk shiver at a bus stop tells us we live in the age of Me Only. In time, such cars as the AMI will be rented as often as bought.
Increasingly authoritarian governments devoid of imagination and technological endeavour are gradually curtailing the right to freedom of movement. Citroën, rightly admired for its past pioneering innovation in automobile design, is perpetuating 100 years of innovation and boldness dedicated to the freedom of movement with the AMI ONE Concept, a dissonant, all-electric, two fingers to fashion, object that places digital technology at the heart of an egalitarian experience of urban mobility affording more freedom and peace of mind.
AMI ONE is also safe as regards the exterior environment. It is equipped with its own sound signature. The sounds emitted is part of its personality. It features original and organic music blending male and female voices described as the sound identity. The notes change according to speed, and comply with European regulation introduced in January 2019. For reasons of safety, all electric vehicles must now be equipped with an artificial sound at low speeds to warn pedestrians of their approach. I wonder if it will play piano solos by Debussy?
AMI ONE is the response to new driver attitudes and behaviour. Japan is usually the nation to exhibit odd small-town, half-car, half-bike concepts that unfortunately rarely see the light of day. Citroen makes clear the AMI is just a concept for now, but Citroen product manager Sebastien Grandmougin has said the vehicle is designed to be relevant within the next year or two, not in 2025.
Three cheers for good design and common sense.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Get a lawyer who is combative
With a trial looming this year on charges of aggravated breach of trust and filing false statements to regulators regarding $80 million in deferred income, the former chairman of Nissan and Renault needs a new strategy. He’s lost two requests for bail and faces as many as 10 years in prison if convicted. Confronting a Japanese legal system with a 99 per cent conviction rate, Carlos Ghosn overhauled his legal team last week. He replaced a group led by former local prosecutor Motonari Otsuru with one overseen by Junichiro Hironaka, who is known for aggressive tactics defending high-profile clients such as a former senior bureaucrat accused of corruption. By hiring a lead lawyer nicknamed “the Razor”, Ghosn is betting that an attorney with a history of challenging the insular Japanese legal world can make him a free man again. Ghosn’s team likely will argue that Nissan approved the $14.7 million in payments. The payments over four years “were for legitimate business purposes in order to support and promote Nissan’s business strategy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and included reimbursement for business expenses,” Or put another way, if you’re rich and powerful you’ll find a lawyer who can get you off.
VW does the dirty
With the inevitability of heavy rain when you hang out the washing, Volkswagen is doing its best to renege on compensating its car clients. This is always the way of it. A car maker denies liability, cornered, cries mea culpa, agrees to pay up, and then sends out its lawyers to stymie every legitimate claim made against it. There exists a mass group suit by Tiguan owners demanding a replacement vehicle for the one they bought with a flaky emissions engine – rigged to you and me. Unlike US where ‘do it, or get fined and jailed’ laws are tougher, VW refused on the grounds that that model no longer exists, they have updated it. The Federal Court of Justice has seen their party trick and told them to do the right thing. Under European law – you know, that thing Brits dispensed with – VW must compensate its clients. The emissions scandal has cost VW £25 billion … so far.
The Irish question
In Dublin recently I noticed Ireland’s cars have no need of a yellow rear registration plate? They sport white plates front and rear. Why? Because Ireland has no speed cameras. What they have are police vans with automatic cameras. The police park them in a strategic spot and go off for lunch. Meanwhile passing drivers, spotting the obvious Garda van, flash warnings to other drivers. No one gets fined, and the police get a stress free lunch. Everybody is happy. Perfect symbiosis. An Garda Síochána means guardians of peace, and that’s the way they like it.