THE AUDI A1 supermini is to be discontinued, according to its boss, because tighter emissions legislation makes the financial case for building small petrol and diesel cars unviable.
Audi CEO Markus Duesmann told Automotive News Europe that the second-generation A1 in showrooms currently will be the last of the line.
“We won’t have a successor to the A1,” he said. “We know that offering combustion engines in the smaller segments in the future will be pretty difficult because the costs will go up. Therefore, we will leave the segment.”
The difficulty he is referring to surrounds tightening emissions legislation in the European Union that car manufacturers must meet. In 2021 the automotive industry must reduce its average fleet CO2 emissions in the EU to 95g/km, down from 106.7g/km in 2020.
This is increasingly difficult for car makers without adding some form of electrification to a combustion engine. Adding such hybrid components into a small car eats into cabin or boot space as well as profit margins, making it harder for manufacturers to justify their continued production.
Audi isn’t unique in abandoning the small car sector. Citroën and Peugeot will drop their respective C1 and 108 models for the same reasons – although joint-venture partner Toyota is pressing on with plans for a replacement of the Aygo, which is expected to continue with petrol power to keep costs down.
Elsewhere, pure-electric power is the way ahead for other small car manufacturers. Fiat has just introduced the all-electric 500 in an effort to reduce its fleet emissions, Mini sells an electric version of its three-door hatchback for similar reasons, and the Honda e points the way for Japanese company’s small car future.
Mercedes-Benz’s small car brand Smart, which produces the pure-electric Fortwo and Forfour models, is switching production to China in a joint venture with Geely, the owner of brands including Lotus, Volvo and London Electric Vehicle Company, to maintain profitability for its line-up.
Audi A1: the premium small car
The Audi A1 was a popular model when the first generation launched in 2010. While the VW Polo, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia offered value for money, the A1 featured Audi’s upmarket interior, refinement and premium badge.
The second-generation Audi A1 arrived in 2018 with more of the same, although sales volumes were roughly half those of the Mini Hatch in 2020.
The first generation A1 came with petrol or diesel power, as a three-door or five-door Sportback, and even spawned a four-wheel-drive limited-run hot hatch variant in the shape of the A1 Quattro. Audi also built a handful of electric A1 e-trons to evaluate electrification, although the project never made it further than the concept stage.
The second-generation A1 line-up is far more limited. It only comes as a five-door Sportback with petrol engines and front-wheel drive, and while the A1 Citycarver introduced an off-road inspired bodykit, it was a slow seller and was recently dropped from the range.
Once the A1 is gone, that means the entry point to the Audi range will be the Q2 SUV, while the A3 will be the smallest hatchback available from the German brand.
- After reading about Audi’s plans to axe the A1, you might like to read about the new 394bhp Audi RS 3
- Read our review of the new pure-electric Audi Q4 e-tron
- And check out how the EU’s electric car charging deployment is off-track