Citroen CEO Says We're Headed for a 'Post-SUV' World

The need to improve aerodynamics and save weight will kill SUVs as we know them, according to chief exec Vincent Cobée.

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Citroën Oli concept promotional image, parked and charging.
Citroën’s Oli electric concept doesn’t appear to have a shape that slices through air, but it was made to be light, with a low roof.
Image: Citroën

The current trend of bigger, bulkier cars is but a phase, according to Citroën boss Vincent Cobée. The chief executive of the French brand says we’re on the brink of a “post-SUV world” where optimized aerodynamics and lower, lighter vehicles will be the objective of every manufacturer looking to squeeze maximum efficiency from its electric powertrains.

It’s a nice thought, even if it’s hard to buy into as I stare at the lifted Wrangler with murderous eyes that scowls at me from outside my office window every morning. From Autocar:

Speaking candidly to Autocar, the French brand’s boss said designers are placing increasing emphasis on how slippery a car can be, with “anything which is high or squarish” more than likely not considered for reasons of aero efficiency.

“The transition to electric vehicles is going to massively increase the importance of aerodynamics,” he said, calling it the “post-SUV world”.

He added: “Because, to be honest, whether your car is aero or not, in the current ICE world just increase the fuel tank and as long as your purchasing power ignores the price of petrol, which it does for 30-50% of the population, why bother?

“[In the] fully electric world, you lose autonomy because of aerodynamics, so the link is much stronger. So anything which is high or squarish will have immediate penalty to its autonomy in a battery-EV world.”

Cobée also suggested new methods of vehicle taxation – perhaps designed to penalise heavier, larger vehicles – could further threaten the onward viability of SUVs.


In some respects, companies are already doing what Cobée says they will in the theoretical “battery-EV world.” Most electric cars are slippery, their manufacturers always touting new personal-best drag coefficients. But EVs also tend to be really freaking heavy, too, because fear — in this case, range anxiety — invariably trumps all other consumer considerations, so the biggest battery pack always wins out. It’s what fear has always done best.

Citroën Oli concept promotional image, parked with rear gate opened.
Image: Citroën

Not all EV makers are following Cobée’s idealist playbook, even at this still relatively early stage of the tech when they’d especially stand to benefit from it. Batteries will eventually get lighter, yes. But in the meantime, the 9,063-pound Hummer EV weighs almost twice as much as an H3, even if its shape is a little more rounded than its predecessor’s. The F-150 Lightning is 3,000 pounds lighter than the Hummer, yet still heavier than a normal F-150 by a third, which means it’s likely heavier than most cars on the road. While I think the forthcoming Jeep Recon looks swell, svelte it most certainly isn’t.

An EV can be just as inconsiderate to the environment as any gas-powered vehicle — or the public’s buying habits, for that matter. Perhaps the CEO’s premonition could play out in Europe, where full-size pickups aren’t really a thing. Here, though? I don’t see it.

Citroën Oli concept promotional image.
Image: Citroën

The second half of Cobée’s chat with Autocar centered on Citroën’s own efforts to streamline and downsize. If you recall last fall’s Oli concept, that was the ethos of the design: a “fun and appealing” pitch for an affordable EV, with personality. While the Oli is certainly low and light — it weighs about 2,200 pounds and has a body made partially from cardboard — “slippery” isn’t an adjective I’d use to describe it. Sure, the windshield makes up a very short portion of the frontal area, and that’s key in calculating drag. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen front glass more... perpendicular with the ground.


That said, I’d welcome the Oli, even if it looks like Porygon’s unlovable bulldog cousin. I’ll just have to see this world Citroën envisions in my lifetime before I can really believe it.