By on March 24, 2015

Fiat_Panda. Photo courtesy

During FCA’s most recent five year plan presentation, Fiat was the sole brand that did not have any semblance of a unified direction. While Fiat is decidedly mainstream in key markets such as Brazil and Latin America, it appears that FCA is trying to re-position the brand as something else entirely in Europe and North America. Key to this plan will be an all new, bare bones C-segment vehicle that could end up wearing the Panda badge.

According to the UK’s Autocar, Fiat’s lineup will focus on a series of CUVs in the immediate future, including the Jeep-derived 500X and a variant of the next-gen Jeep Compass. But once those are launched, the next product from Fiat will be

a back-to-basics C-segment hatchback and estate, replacing the unsuccessful Fiat Bravo. These will be based on the same platform as the 500L MPV and will be built in Turkey, where labour rates are cheaper.

Insiders have told Autocar that the new models will not be as “basic” as Dacia’s successful models, but will be “very well priced”. Some rumours suggest that Marchionne will use the well-regarded Panda badge for the Bravo replacement, neatly rebuilding the Panda family as Fiat’s no-nonsense sub-brand.

According to the article, the C-segment, which makes up nearly a third of the EU’s new car market, is plagued by profit margins that range from razor thin to non-existent. High labor costs, consumer demands for advanced feature content and market saturation have all contributed to this situation. While VW’s MQB platform allows for significant economies of scale, their rivals aren’t in the same position. On the other hand, Renault’s Dacia brand can enjoy margins of as much as 10 percent (compared to 2-3 percent on average) thanks to low labor costs, spartan levels of equipment and the use of old, already amortized technology.

The middle ground for mainstream auto makers lies in something like the Citroen Cactus. The Cactus looks chic, but has a number of innovative cost-cutting measures (like rear windows that pop out, rather than roll down) to keep costs down. Fuel efficiency is achieved through reducing weight rather than expensive, advanced technology. If the Dacia is the automotive equivalent of Wal-Mart, then the Cactus is something like H&M – frugal, but now dowdy. The fact that the Cactus uses the underpinings of a B-segment car, but is priced more like a C-segment car doesn’t hurt either.

Following this example for the Panda would be the most logical path for Fiat to take. The Panda name has a lot of brand equity, thanks to its longevity and the widespread acclaim it has garnered from both consumers and the automotive media. Not long ago, it was regarded as the best handling small car money could buy. But in the next half of this decade, the focus will have to shift on creating something that will make consumers consider a Fiat, when there are literally hundreds of other nameplates available. A Cactus competitor doesn’t seem like such a bad start.

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21 Comments on “Next Fiat Panda To Rival Citroen Cactus...”

  • avatar

    The “brand equity” may not be as durable as some think. Consider the Scion xB. It did not take buyers long to notice that the 2nd generation xB was overpriced, bloated, decontended.

  • avatar

    I was unaware that pop out windows qualified as “innovative.”

    GM was ahead of it’s time! Next up: minivans with just one sliding door!

  • avatar

    So what does this mean? If the Panda grows to Bravo size, this will leave no Fiat A segmemt car? Or there will be a cheaper 500? Let’s see how this pans out. It could work though as the market is now CUV crazed. And it has been done all the time but just different body types, Punto/Idea or even further back Uno/Duna/Elba.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    …cost-cutting measures (like rear windows that pop out, rather than roll down)

    Jiminy Christmas! How expensive is a couple of window regulators and the labor to install them? It probably takes less time to install than it did for me to make this stupid sentence.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a Fiat Panda launch in North America.

    Definitely need to have roll down windows.

  • avatar

    A new Fiat Strada might be nice.

    • 0 avatar
      Inside Lane

      The Panda XL IS the 500L.
      Look at the side profile and the dashboard of both!
      Fiat wanted to export to USA after the Chrysler deal.
      Panda XL name wouldn’t work, so they grafted on a 500 nose.

      Now the interesting part.
      The Mazda Miata/MX5 sister will be the Fiat 124 Spider.
      I’ll bet, the new C-Segment car build in Turkey will be the new Fiat 124.
      The 124 was the 2nd most popular design in history, after the VW Beetle – Fiat, Lada (Russia), Seat (Spain), Premier (India), Murat (Turkey).
      The 124 is a brand with heritage.
      If it worked for the 500 family, why not the 124 family.

      • 0 avatar

        I think you are confusing things. When the first sketches of the planned Renegade came out there were also those of a Fiat. Some speculated it was the future Panda, but it became the 500 X. And yes they are all closely related. What the article is saying is that the new Panda could also spawn a CUV.

        Now the 124 idea could actually work though if it’s c segment a sedan is a hard sell in Europe. Intringuing idea though but for the convertible the 124 Spyder is a go. I think they are still deciding what to do though Panda, Punto, 500 and derivatives are coming. A 124 sedan and hatch to substitute the Bravo would be great.

  • avatar

    Hmmm looks like we are losing posts again.

    I hope they don’t ruin the Panda. Keep it under ~2400lbs, keep its styling, make the 1.4T and full Abarth treatment an option. It’s a wonderful, brilliant car. A 500 without the silly retro looks, impracticality and high CoG + weight. If they mess this up I will be legit pissed. A base Panda is one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven, and that list includes Ferraris.

  • avatar

    Some time ago, Fiat said that the brand will have two different product lines. 500 on the emotional/premium side, and Panda on the more practical/’down-to-earth’ side. So this actually makes sense. Th Panda will be an A-segment car as it is just now, while Fiat (probably) will also introduce a Panda L (basically the 500L in my opinion) and Panda XL.

    About the 124, technically it was a D-segment car. The Bravo’s predecessor of that era would be the 128.

  • avatar
    Inside Lane

    Panda brand is dying. Still awaiting 105bhp Twin-air. Europe brand-recognition only.

    Overall Car Lengths.
    500 (1957) 2.97m; 500 (2007) 3.55m; 500L 4.14m & 4.35m (MPW); 500X 4.24m.
    124 4.04m.

    Nice you consider the 124 as a D-segment car.
    At C-segment prices, it will seem like a bargain.
    And with the halo-effect of the 124 Spider, it will seem like a desirable bargain.

    Marchionne will be pleased!

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