Next-generation Fiat 500 Confirmed As Electric Only, Old Model Will Stick Around

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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