Fiat to refresh model range with EV focus
20 August 2019
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is planning to refresh its model line-up in Europe with a focus on two of its biggest sellers, the 500 and Panda.
The Italian carmaker is also planning to launch the 500 Giardiniera estate, a new 500X and a Tipo replacement that’s likely to be an SUV. The latest elements of the strategy were debated at a high-level meeting in FCA’s Turin design centre late last month, led by Fiat CEO Olivier François.
Talking to Autocar magazine about that meeting, François said: ‘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.’
The carmaker will, therefore, continue to offer small cars like the Panda and 500, two vehicles which dominate city car sales in Europe, while also producing a range of larger family vehicles.
‘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,’ said François. ‘We will be present in the C-segment but not much more. All models will sit within 3.5 metres and 4.5 metres.’
The CEO also suggested that the company needs more electric vehicles (EVs) and to expand upon its 500 range with models that can take higher pricing through quality improvements.
Autocar understands that the new electric 500 will make use of a ‘suicide’ door arrangement, also seen on the BMW i3, which would improve access and allow the model to compete with premium superminis, such as the five-door Mini.
In addition, Fiat will replace the 500X SUV but not the slow-selling 500L MPV. Instead, the 500 Giardiniera estate announced at Fiat’s 2018 investor conference will appear as a bigger, five-door C-segment model.
The magazine also suggests that the new Panda will lead the range of family-oriented models, which is likely to appear in 2021. An electric version is expected by 2023, with modular, add-on battery packs to keep its price low.
The Tipo will also be replaced, probably by an SUV, given François’s desire for more such models. It may well be based on the Jeep Renegade platform, which will be shared with the Alfa Romeo Tonale and provide a plug-in hybrid option. The new Fiat SUV will be designed in the mould of the Centoventi platform, and the base version will be sold at a keen price with plenty of scope to add options.
‘Everyone is embedding the high cost of an EV into a high-cost car, like Tesla. So the extra cost is diluted,’ concludes François. ‘It is harder to do this in the A-segment. But the 500 has the strength to carry it. There’s a lot of cost in accommodating the battery, so we’ll use a modular 62-mile battery, which you can upgrade by renting, buying or leasing.’
‘Only the A- and B-segments can generate hundreds of thousands of EV sales. We want to leverage the fact that Fiat sells one in three small cars with the 500 and Panda.’