The Fiat 500 is the latest smash-hit car to be confirmed for a fully electric future. And it’s coming sooner than you think. Fiat’s marketing boss Francois Olivier has told TopGear.com he’ll be revealing the new 500 EV on the Fiat stand at next year’s Geneva motor show.
A curious move, as the 2019 star of Fiat’s show is the adorable, boxy, deliberately utilitarian Centoventi concept – basically a new, all-electric Panda? Here’s why Olivier says it makes sense.
“Collectively as carmakers we’ve been thinking about giving people a choice of 200km range, because we didn’t dare say 100km range – it sounds too low. 200km is a compromise, and while 400km is nice, it’s expensive. If you have something premium and expensive that’s perfect, but you wouldn’t see a Tesla with a base model of range. It makes sense to make the best offer of range and embed it in a premium priced car. That’s the way we’ll go with the 500.”
So, it’ll be electric, premium-priced, and the finished, production-ready version will be revealed in 364 days-time.
How much? Well, Olivier says that the idea is to pitch the price towards the toppy end of what people pay for the current 500. He explains: “The natural entry price for a B-segment car is €15-16, but over half of Fiat 500s sold in 2018 cost €22-24,000.” That’s where Fiat will aim to price the 500 EV.
Though the all-new 500 will be electric-only, Olivier confirmed the existing 500 will remain on sale alongside it, with petrol power. He hinted there are more upgrades to come to keep that car fresh, for as long as it can be sold. It’s already a 12-year old design underneath.
Fiat’s done an electric 500 before – the 500e, which bombed. In fact, it was such a loss-maker, late Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne publicly appealed for people not to buy it, to save the company money. Hopefully some hard lessons have been learned there. That car was front-wheel drive, but we can’t resist asking if the new car will copy the original Cinquecento’s rear-engined, rear-drive layout.
“Please, you must give me something to reveal next year, or it will be a very short press conference”, laughs Francois. He merely admits that the finished product will “be very true to the spirit of the original 500.” Hmm. We’d bet on rear-drive.
Now, what about an electric Abarth 500? A 500 with ‘ludicrous mode’ to take on the new Mini Cooper S E? Francois was keen, but not committed.
“In an electric car the torque is crazy, and you have unbeatable acceleration. I’m not saying there will be an electric Abarth 500, but let’s say I am a big believer [in the idea]. It would be a fun-to-drive urban rocket!”
The current 500 has been a massive money-spinner for Fiat, and brought much twee retro joy to our streets.