Citroën has created a surprise with the new C3, the starting price of which confirms the brand's promise to make electric cars accessible to all. Priced from €23,300 excluding the bonus in you finish, the new C3 is not a discount car, as it offers all the equipment expected in the B segment, a 113 hp electric motor and a 44 kWh battery that gives a range of 320 km, making it absolutely unique on the market. But how has Citroën managed to offer a car made in Europe at such a low price? Answers.
A controlled cost chain
For Citroën, the aim was not to make the new C3 a low-cost car, but to meet the real needs of customers, neither too much nor too little. It was therefore necessary to integrate this reduced cost logic from the very beginning of the project, without this reduction being to the detriment of the customer. The C3 is not a low-cost car, it is equipped with the most common and useful technologies, it is very comfortable thanks to the Advanced Comfort suspension and seats, and the attention to detail is astonishing in this class.
To achieve this, Citroën sought to reduce production costs and the cost price of the car as much as possible. This "Smart Car" platform is completely new, designed from the outset to be optimised and efficient to accommodate an electric drive chain, with an ideal battery location to take up all the space and take advantage of the rectangular shape (the easiest to install), without DIY. Designed electrically, it is fully compatible with thermal versions. Although it is inspired by certain modules of the Stellantis Group's CMP platform, it is very different. With the Smart Car platform, Citroën is inaugurating a completely new platform designed to offer the best at the best cost, simple to design, simple to produce. It is based on the development of the C3 and C3 Aircross, first launched in India and South America, and then significantly reworked to meet the expectations and requirements of the European market. In addition, this platform uses an LFP (Lithium-Ferro-Phosphate) battery - a first for Stellantis - which uses less rare earths (environmental impact + cost), at a lower cost and with a longer life.
In addition to the platform, another essential element to take into account in the price of a car is the assembly time, which has a direct impact on the cost price of the car. Compared to the current generation C3, the new model has a 25% reduction in assembly time, a significant figure which has a major impact on the selling price. To achieve this, the number of parts required to manufacture the C3 has been drastically reduced, making assembly easier and reducing costs; Citroën has managed to reduce the number of components in the C3 by 15%. For example, the front bumper has only eight parts compared to ten on the previous generation. Similarly, the black grille with its chevron stripes is an injection-moulded plastic that comes out of the mould shiny and requires no further treatment. The same plastic is used for the roof bars, which are thus fixed directly to the car after leaving the mould, with a perfect and very high quality result. The use of this type of plastic avoids the use of paint and therefore significantly reduces costs.
Another element of cost reduction is the reduction in the number of parts, as fewer parts mean savings in logistics and therefore cost control. For this reason, the new C3 offers black door handles on all versions and colours offered, as well as painted door handles, for the sake of quality and durability of a very frequently used part. Likewise, only two roof colours will be offered, black or white, always with the aim of reducing costs, as the biton roof requires two passes in the paint booth. For the latter, too, Citroën has intelligently designed the car by adding a fine groove to the rear quarter panel, a groove on which a machine is placed at the factory, allowing a clear and smooth demarcation between the colour of the bodywork and the colour of the roof. This fine, almost imperceptible groove makes it possible to avoid applying a sticker, which requires assembly time in addition to the cost of the sticker and glue. The same applies to the sticker on the A-pillar, which has been removed on this new generation, reducing assembly time and the cost of the car.
For the new generation C3, Citroën also had to review its supply chain to respond to falling costs. For example, 90% of suppliers are from Eastern Europe, compared to around 60-70% for the current generation, while the seat frames come from Turkey, resulting in a 30% price reduction. This race to reduce costs therefore requires a review of suppliers capable of meeting the specifications, many of whom are new to this new C3.
These same suppliers will also be responsible for the future C3 Aircross, as the new C3's SUV counterpart was developed at the same time as the versatile saloon, thus reducing development costs as the brand sought to maximise the number of common components between the C3 and the future C3 Aircross. The brand has also managed to reduce the development costs of the new C3 by sharing a certain number of components - we are talking about 30% - with the Indian and South American versions, even if the suppliers are different. The development time saved on the new C3, which is shared with the version produced and sold outside Europe, has therefore helped to reduce the cost price of the car.
Citroën can also count on the Trnava plant in Slovakia, which has been optimised for the production of the C3 and will also be responsible for the production of the future C3 Aircross. The Trnava plant is one of the group's largest in Europe, with a production rate of more than one car per minute and a volume that Citroën hopes will exceed 250,000 units per year. The Trnava site appears to be the key element in reducing the costs of the new C3, as suppliers are all close to the factory and the latter is optimised to produce a maximum number of cars while maintaining high quality criteria.
Finally, the last element that allows Citroën to offer a very accessible car is the sales price of the car, which the brand announces net, without discounts. The sales price actually paid by the customer may differ from the list price, depending on the promotions or discounts expected and negotiated by the customer within the brand's network. But Citroën is betting on net prices, a rather difficult bet that consists of charging the customer the list price without any possibility of negotiation, even if there is always the possibility of a drastically reduced price. With net prices, the brand can be sure of having the right margin on its C3 and therefore the right level of profitability, because even though it is very accessible, the new C3 is indeed a profitable car for Citroën, which has managed to reduce its production costs sufficiently to offer competitive prices without reducing its margin.
In conclusion, Citroën has been able to rely on five pillars to reduce the manufacturing costs of the new C3 and therefore offer very competitive retail prices. Reduced manufacturing time, fewer components, reduced parts variety, optimised factory and net prices are the key elements that have allowed the C3 to become a truly unique offer on the automotive market, leaving its competitors such as Renault or Volkswagen in the dust, without failing to meet the expectations of segment B customers who are looking for a liveable, comfortable, well-equipped car with more than sufficient autonomy and fast recharging. But this performance, which really is one, was also possible thanks to the perfect understanding between all those involved in its design. This rigour has made it possible to reduce modifications to zero since the launch of the first prototype in February 2023; while some brands still make numerous modifications, this has also enabled Citroën to make significant savings.