Next Fiat 500 will be all-electric, more upscale

Perhaps you missed it in the barrage of news out of the 2019 Geneva Motor Show last month, but Fiat chief marketing Olivier Francois confirmed with UK outlet Auto Express that when the next generation of the Fiat 500 arrives in 2020, it will be based on an all-new electric-only small-car platform that FCA is currently developing.

It’s not clear if the new EV platform will be shared with the next-generation Fiat Panda, previewed by the Centoventi concept revealed at the 2019 Geneva show, which will also offer electric power.

The new electric city car will still retain the 500’s iconic styling that goes back to the original 1950s Cinquecento, but it will be positioned as a more upscale model, or “an urban Tesla,” as Francois put it. Just don’t expect Tesla-like driving range— because of the 500’s traditionally tiny footprint, there isn’t much room for a large battery pack.

While the move upscale is partially prompted by sales data showing fewer than half of current 500 customers opt for the entry level model, the current generation (gasoline-powered) model will continue to be sold for budget- and range-conscious consumers. The higher pricing is also related to the higher cost of producing electric vehicles, which Fiat needs in order to comply with stringent European emissions standards. For now, the FCA plans to avoid EU emissions penalties by paying Tesla hundreds of millions of euros to have Tesla EVs counted as FCA fleet vehicles.

Fiat has struggled to get a foothold in the U.S., where the 500 is getting very long in the tooth after first arriving back in 2005. The future of the brand in this market remains unclear, but it could very well thrive in Europe where it is more popular. Daimler is taking a similar tack with its city-focused minicar brand Smart, which will also transition to all-electric propulsion as part of a partnership with Geely.

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