Fiat Punto, not long for this world.
Sources tell Bloomberg News that Fiat Spa will spend as much as 9 billion euros ($12 billion) over the next three years developing new models for for the European market. The Italian automaker hopes the strategy will end losses on the continent and restore drastically underutilized Italian factories to profitability. Many of the new models will be based on either the Fiat 500 subcompact or the small, low cost Panda. A five door version of the 500 will replace the Punto. The Punto, last restyled in 2005, has long been a fixture in Fiat showrooms and as recently as 2007 it accounted for almost a third of the Fiat brand’s sales in Europe.
Though Fiat wants to use its Italian factories better, the Punto’s replacement will be built in Poland to save on costs. Sergio Marchionne believes that “made in Italy” works with upscale brands like Maserati and Alfa Romeo. The upcoming Maserati Levante SUV will be made in Fiat’s Mirafiori factory. (Read More…)
I have to admit, I’m a fan of the Fiat 500. Yes, I know it’s just a Fiat Panda with bubbly sheetmetal. Yes I know it’s a little peculiar. Yes I know it’s trying to ride on MINI success. It doesn’t matter, the wee Fiat makes me grin every time I drive one. Whether it’s the slow-as-dirt standard 500, the ludicrously loud Abarth, the almost-convertible 500c or the totally impractical 500e, the Cinquecento knows how to brighten my day. I was therefore excited when Fiat announced the 500′s success would spawn a four door stable-mate for 2014. Is the 500L 40% more smiles for 20% more cash?
Despite being an incredibly small part of the US market share, you don’t have to look far in California’s urban areas to find a car with a plug. The reason for that is California’s controversial EV mandate. California wants 1.4 million EVs and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2025. Up till recently, California’s regulations seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream with a far-away deadline. That changed last year when CARB (California Air Resources Board) mandated (in a nutshell) a combined 7,500 zero-emission vehicles be sold between 2012 and 2014 by the large auto makers in the state. (Credits and trades are not included in that number.) Come 2018, smaller companies like Volvo, Subaru and Jaguar will have to embrace plug-love and at the same time, most of the silly green credits go out the window. By 2025, if my home state has its way, 15% of new cars will be an EV. In California. This brings us to the little orange 500 Fiat lent us for a week. Because everyone is getting into the EV game, this will be our first EV review where we make no mention of living with an EV, range anxiety or charging station availability. If you want to know about that, click over to our 7-part saga “Living with an EV for a week.”
With the Fiat brand looking to move into the “premium small” space, where its 500 and Panda vehicles currently thrive, there will likely be an opportunity for a low-cost brand within the Fiat empire, and Sergio Marchionne is already investigating the possibility of a low-cost Fiat built outside of Europe, that would go head-to-head with Dacia and other similar products.
Our intrepid Brazilian correspondent Marcelo got the hearts of Canuckistani readers racing after he leaked news of an expanded Fiat lineup for Canada. According to Senhor de Vasconcellos, Fiat will add new product in Canada, where 500 sales have been much stronger than the USA. The only question is what the mystery product will be, now that Fiat head Sergio Marchionne confirmed the new model at a Toronto event.
The Fiat 500L may be joined by another Fiat product, but the brand’s North American head said that it won’t necessarily resemble the 500 vehicles.
Fiat will uneveil a bigger, five-door model, possibly related to the 500, at this March’s Geneva Auto Show. The new car will be built in Fiat’s Serbian plant and was designed with the U.S. market in mind, according to Automotive News. Europe will receive the new model before we do, and hopefully Sergio Marchionne isn’t “naively optimistic” about the car’s success in America. No word on whether or not it’s the Fiat Panda. We hope so.
I’ve been waiting 28 years for Fiat to return to the United States, and that means TTAC is going back-to-back on the Fiat 500 coverage, following up Michael Karesh’s review with one of my own. (Read More…)