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France's Voiturettes

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

Meet L'Ami, the tiny 28mph cube on wheels that French 14-year-olds can drive on the roads.

Once derided as little “yoghurt pots” for an ageing rural population too old for a proper car, voiturettes have morphed into a must-have accessory for France’s affluent youth.

Like a moped, teenagers can drive them without a full licence and they've become wildly popular along the Riviera and on the sunny Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Getting a driving licence is a tough and expensive process in France, and driving alone, in 'proper' cars is only available to the over-18s. On the other hand, la voiture sans permis, or VSP, as the cars without licences are officially dubbed, can be driven by anyone aged 14 or over with as little as eight hours’ training, including three behind the wheel.

Franck Bellavia, a VSP vendor in Marseille, said: “Our historic clientele were mostly people who never got a licence, or with a disability. The trend has reversed and now we sell to youth. At the end of the day it’s a moped with a body, which is reassuring for parents.”

But they come at a price; the higher-end models can cost up to €18,000 (£15,000 / $20,000), complete with air conditioning, reversing cameras and thumping sound systems.

The slight drawback is that a voiturette's top authorised speed is 28mph and cannot be driven on motorways or expressways. However, they are very cheap to run, turn on a dime and are easy to park. What's not to like?

While it is still a niche market, the “sans P”, as it's often referred to as, is becoming increasingly affordable, in particular since Citroën introduced l’Ami, an electric voiturette at the relatively low price of €6,900 ($7,800). According to the French carmaker, three quarters of the buyers are “multi-motorised” families with two teenagers and “more than 40 percent of users are under 18”.


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