There’s not much news surrounding Fiat at the moment, but the Italian small car expert is on the brink of a revolution, according to Autocar. The company is reportedly in the midst of developing a revitalised two-pronged lineup, with five models centred around its two biggest-selling nameplates – the 500 and Panda.
Its CEO Olivier François told the publication that Fiat will stick to what it knows best – making small, no-frills means of transport. The two aforementioned nameplates account for a third of city car sales in Europe, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. “Fiat has a double mission. Urban mobility is core today, but at the same time, it means family transportation. In southern Europe, this is especially true.
“For our future product plan, we need the right balance between the two dimensions – the Fiat 500 family and family transportation. There will be no big cars, no premium cars, no sporty cars because they have no legitimacy. We will be present in the C-segment but not much more. All models will sit within 3.5m and 4.5m. This is where Fiat will play,” said François.
At the heart of this plan is the new 500, expected to be fully-electric and due for a mid-2020 unveiling. Autocar says it will feature suicide doors with smaller rear portals, improving rear-seat access and allowing it to compete with rivals like the MINI 5 Door – mitigating the effects of shrinking sales of three-door vehicles.
The slow-selling Fiat 500L MPV will be axed in favour of a wagon
The range of 500-derived vehicles will also be rejigged. While a second generation of the 500X SUV will see the light of day, the slow-selling 500L MPV will be axed. Instead, there will be a new wagon model called the 500 Giardiniera, resurrecting a long-lost nameplate on a larger C-segment model with five doors, design derived from the 500 and an upmarket cabin – similar to the MINI Clubman.
On the other side of the coin is the new Panda, which will borrow styling cues and plenty of elements from the Centoventi concept, shown at the Geneva Motor Show. François said that the show car’s “looks are very faithful to the next-generation Panda,” which is slated to debut in 2021.
The Centoventi offers some fascinating ideas in terms of customisation – Fiat proposes the car to be sold in just a single trim and colour, with a range of modular body panels, display and accessories to be made available to customers. This modular concept extends to the batteries as well, with up to five batteries – each being capable of a 100 km range – able to be fitted for a maximum range of 500 km.
Further up the range, the Tipo C-segment hatch is expected to be replaced by an SUV, with a plug-in hybrid option and a platform shared with the Jeep Renegade and the production version of the Alfa Romeo Tonale concept. It too will borrow cues from the Centoventi, including a range of customisation options.
The Concept Centoventi offers a look at the next-generation Panda
The 500 models will carry a price premium to offset the cost of an electric powertrain. “There’s no compromise on content, on feel or refinement. It’s another approach to design. More is more, but it’s relevant. It’s green and opulent.
“Everyone is embedding the high cost of an EV into a high-cost car, like Tesla. So the extra cost is diluted. It’s harder to do this in the A-segment. But the 500 has the strength to carry it,” said François. Batteries are expensive, so Fiat will use the modular 100 km battery mentioned earlier, with buyers able to upgrade the range of their cars by buying, renting or leasing extra batteries.
In short, Fiat wants to utilise the strength of its small car lineup to make the electric vehicle truly mainstream. “Only the A- and B-segments can generate hundreds of thousands of EV sales,” said François. “We want to leverage the fact that Fiat sells one in three small cars with the 500 and Panda.”