By on March 21, 2019

Image: FCA

Following reports that the Fiat 500 would see the inclusion of a new all-electric powertrain in 2020, Fiat Chrysler has confirmed the model will actually become a dedicated EV — foregoing internal combustion entirely.

While the vehicle’s overall dimensions are to be retained, FCA chief marketing officer Olivier François said the small car would place additional emphasis on attainable urban luxury and electrification.

“Premium is the way we will go with the EV 500,” he told AutoExpress in a recent interview. “A new 500, totally renewed. A new object. Totally electric. It’s kind of an urban Tesla, with beautiful style. Italianess, dolce vita in an electric car. It’s the polar opposite of Centoventi.” 

If you’re unfamiliar with Fiat’s Centoventi (120, in Italian) Concept, it’s basically a futuristic Fiat Panda BEV focused on customizability. Debuting at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month (see above photo), the car incorporates modular upgrades. The base version is basically a blank slate, designed to be as affordable as possible with zero frills. Fiat doesn’t even plan to offer paint choices. But customers can select from a wide array of proposed options, including multiple variations of multi-colored/textured roof types, bumpers, wheel covers, wraps, and interior panels — as well as tech, upholstery, and hardware upgrades. While just a concept at the moment, many think the design will be incorporated into the next-generation Panda or its replacement.

If you’re curious, Fiat is already allowing people to play with Centoventi’s design options on its website.

Meanwhile, the 500 will be transformed into a city dweller’s most luxurious fantasy for 2020. At least, that’s how FCA wants us to feel. François said the car will move upmarket (what automobile isn’t these days) but declined to provide any clues as to how much that would elevate the car’s MSRP. However, he did say he wasn’t terribly concerned with pricing changes. François believes “the appeal of the 500 is so strong we may not lose customers [with a more expensive EV].”

The truth of that claim is dependent upon where you live, though. In Europe, the 500 has enjoyed relatively consistent annual sales. In fact, Fiat delivered record numbers of the little car (189,360 units) in 2017  and did almost as well in 2018. But the United States has been terribly unkind to the 500. Annual U.S. deliveries peaked in 2013 at 36,375 vehicles but declined to just 5,370 in 2018.

It’s looking increasingly likely that Fiat is considering pulling out of the U.S., meaning we wouldn’t even get to see the next-gen 500. But François is keen to point out that this isn’t the car we’ve become accustomed to. “It’s a new platform designed for electrification. It makes the car radically different. It’s still a 500, same size same proportions, but it’s just not the same car. The 500 of the future.”

For those currently emitting a boisterous “hell no” at the prospect of the 500 going entirely electric, FCA will continue building the old internal-combustion 500 for an undetermined amount of time. Frankly, it would be silly of them not to.

We previously asked FCA about the likelihood of the new EV making its way to North America and whether or not the Fiat brand would keep the current 500e on offer. The response we received was that the next-gen 500 was an “Europe/Geneva announcement” and that the company “[isn’t] commenting on future U.S. PHEV products or timing.”

While the PHEV reference threw us for a bit of a loop, especially since the announcement seems to stipulate that the next 500 will be purely electric, it may not matter much. FCA doesn’t appear to be over-eager to promise North America anything — understandable, given Fiat’s regional market share.

Ah well, it probably wasn’t the car for us anyway. But we bet youngsters might be keen on the Centoventi if the manufacturer kept its price to an absolute minimum. Of course we’ve now diverged into wishful thinking about a model that doesn’t even exist yet from a manufacturer with an uncertain future.

[Images: FCA]

 

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33 Comments on “Next-generation Fiat 500 Confirmed As Electric Only, Old Model Will Stick Around...”


  • avatar
    thelaine

    It will be a challenge to make this unreliable, but Fiat has the experience to make it happen.

  • avatar
    NoID

    Shame if a 500e that isn’t phoned in doesn’t make it over here. The current 500e, especially when it was new, isn’t/wasn’t a terrible car to be honest.

    I’m sure it will do well in Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The auto parts/import tax brouhaha isn’t over. FCA may be signaling that it’s going to keep separate the US/EU markets. That may be bad news for those who would want an Alfa. They’ll likely be available in Canada, but EU specs may be a problem.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I wonder if Sergio was even cold when they started planning this. He hated the electric 500.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The 500e is supposedly the best of the 500 family, but its compliance-level availability is a hindrance.

    My brief test drive of a 500 was underwhelming.

    Whatever their new EV is, here are some suggestions:

    1. Do NOT call it a 500. Haven’t you learned anything? We already have the 500, 500e, 500c, 500L, and 500X.
    2. Range and price. No deal if it’s under 150 miles.
    3. Distribution. 50-states, or you’re not serious.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      4. Do not call it a Fiat! It’s a non-starter for a huge portion of the American population. If Chrysler is supposed to be the “people mover” FCA brand, make it a Chrysler and call it Valiant, or Volare, or Electraflow whatever. Maybe even just call it a “Chrysler Plymouth”.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    How much longer is Fiat staying? I noticed that Hendrick Fiat in Cary shut its doors. If Rick Hendrick can’t support the brand then its destined to fail. I wanted to look at one of those $15k brand new Spiders I saw (at the time) on Cars.com.
    Damned be the Fiat drivetrain over the Mazda but a sporty commuter for $15-16k is unbeatable.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      That’s at least ten grand in discounts, no? Even if it’s a real going-out-of-business sale — not the carpet-store kind — it’s hard to believe that’s real.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        That’s what I thought, sign me the hell up if it’s real. Probably includes every ridiculous discount they can think of but still.

      • 0 avatar
        Blackcloud_9

        Like your “carpet store” reference. There was a furniture/carpet store near where I grew up. It had a very wide (I mean WalMart wide) store front. And painted across all the front windows was: “GOING OUT” – then in very small print – “for your” then “BUSINESS SALE!”. From the street it always looked like they were having a “Going Out of Business” Sale. The store remained open for years with that same slogan.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Grew up in Ohio.

          Got accustomed to competing carpet stores screaming TV ads about sales.

          By the time I was an adolescent I’d say things like: “That makes about as much sense as buying carpet when it’s not on sale.”

  • avatar
    la834

    Until some way is found to significantly reduce charging time, EVs are never going to take off in urban areas. I happen to live in the ‘burbs so I’m fine with 30-minute fillup times and 200-mile range since I can charge up in my garage or driveway (which more than compensates for the inconvenience except for long road trips). But most urbanites live in a high-rise with on-street parking or parking in distant lots with no electric feed. For them, long recharge times and short range are dealbreakers.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Easy solution: power taps on light poles. Europe does it. But they make you bring your own cord…presumably there’s a fair bit of copper for a junkie to sell in those cords.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @la834: You’re right. Faster charging needs to happen. One way is to go to dual port charging. They’re using that method with the tesla semis now. With dual ports, you can roughly cut the charge time in half. I suspect the first car company will be Porsche. It’s been confirmed that the Taycan will have charge ports on both front fenders. Supposedly for convenience, but I suspect they could be there for dual port charging in the future as an option. Just speculation on my part though. But, with effectively a 700 kW charge rate (the pack could be electrically spit into two packs) would get you charged in some seriously fast times. I’m using the technique in robotics and getting great results.

      https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1121493_production-bound-porsche-taycan-electric-car-spotted-cold-weather-testing

      Recently, Shell bought one of the US charging networks, so I’m sure we’ll see Shell Recharge “pumps” showing up in the US soon.

      https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/30/with-its-greenlots-acquisition-shell-is-moving-from-gas-stations-to-charging-stations/

      https://www.zap-map.com/charge-points/public-charging-point-networks/shell-recharge-network/

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Can we get an Abarth version with the electric motors ripped out and a Hemi crammed in there?

  • avatar

    FIAT is not practical so forget about it. FIAT is a goner. May survive only by making rebadged PSA vehicles like Opel does. It would be ironic if PSA becomes the graveyard of failed brands in contrast to VW. They want acquire LR/Jaguar and/or Volvo too.

  • avatar
    RHD

    I’m sure the good folks at Lithia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat of Anchorage, Alaska will appreciate the first boatload of unrequested electric 120s that arrives…

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      RHD,

      Looking at new-vehicle registrations by state can be eye-opening. Changing the drop-down from “California” to “Indiana” is like time travel.

  • avatar
    quickson

    I honestly always thought this is how they should’ve done it from the beginning.

    The Fiat 500 should’ve always been a 500e. And then just sell the Abarth next to it. You want fun, you get the turbo-charged gas one. You want a city car, you get the electric. Nothing in-between.

  • avatar
    MoDo

    I have an Abarth I bought new off the showroom floor 3 years ago. Only has 37K on it, I don’t owe much on it either. Its time for something new but I know once I sell this thing I am going to miss it and I doubt Fiat is long for this world in north america. The Abarth as it is – is probably not long for this world. I’d like to keep it for a weekend / summer fun car but have nowhere to put it at the moment with only one parking spot.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Won’t be too much of a change around where I live in SoCal. Easily 75-80% of the 500s I see around here are the 500e variant.


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