The Fiat 500 is an icon of Italian design, which has seduced millions of drivers since its launch in 1957. In 2020, the city car has reinvented itself as a 100 % electric version. But will this new electric 500 be marketed in the USA, a market where the brand has struggled in the past?
A failed first attempt
In 2013, Fiat tried to sell an electric 500 in the USA, under the name 500e. It was an adapted version of the 500 thermal, equipped with a 24 kWh battery and a 111 hp engine, offering a range of 140 km.
This model was intended to meet California requirements, which required manufacturers to offer a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles. But Fiat never concealed its lack of enthusiasm for the project, which was losing money on every sale.
The CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) at the time, Sergio Marchionne, even declared: "I beg you, don't buy it". The 500e was sold at a very low price, 32,500 $, and benefited from strong tax incentives, but it failed to win over Americans, who preferred larger, more powerful models. In 2019, Fiat has announced that it will cease production of the 500e, as well as the 500 thermal, in the USA, due to lack of demand.
A new, more ambitious generation
In 2020, Fiat unveiled the new generation of the electric 500, which has little in common with its predecessor. It's a model entirely designed to be electric, based on a new dedicated platform called Mini. The new 500 electric offers two battery capacities: a 23.8 kWh battery with a range of 185 km, and a 42 kWh battery with a range of 320 km. The engine develops 118 hp, enabling the car to reach a top speed of 150 km/h and accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 9 seconds.
In terms of design, the new 500 electric retains the characteristic features of the 500, but with a more modern and elegant look. It is available in three versions: sedan, convertible and 3+1, with a small additional rear door.
A return to the USA
The new electric 500 was launched in Europe in 2020, where it met with some success, particularly in France and Germany.
Building on this success, Fiat announces plans to relaunch the electric 500 in the USAwhere demand for electric vehicles is growing strongly. During our last press trip to Turin, Fiat CEO Olivier François stated that the new electric 500 will return to the USA in 2024. And indeed, here's what's posted on the Fiat USA website.
This will be a specific model for the American market, arriving in spring 2024. The price and features of this version have not yet been revealed, but we can expect it to be close to the European version. Last time I checked, Olivier François didn't have very high ambitions for this model in the USA, indicating that 10,000 sales a year would be great.
Fiat hopes to win back American consumers. Will the new electric 500 be up to the challenge? We'll have the answer in a few months.