The reborn 2024 Fiat 500e is coming to the U.S., Stellantis confirmed this week, although not until the first quarter of 2024.
This won’t be the first time Fiat has sold the 500e in the U.S. The previous generation of this model was sold exclusively in California and Oregon—although it became a favorite among EV enthusiasts (and enthusiasts of quirky small cars) for its perky driving personality, consistent range, and bargain lease prices.
It was the car that former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne called out at various times for being a loss leader for the brand—to the tune of about $14,000 per vehicle. “I hope you don’t buy it,” he even said at one point to underscore the predicament with its compliance car.
With Fiat now under a new corporate entity, Stellantis, and Jeep electric SUVs and a Dodge electric muscle car arriving over the next couple of years, this 500e has a different role for the company: It will provide a chance to experiment with how it sells EVs ahead of those higher-stakes models.
“We need to learn about the future of the electric car future business model in America. So, it’s obviously less risky to learn with the Fiat where I do not really have big pressure on the volumes,” said Fiat CEO Olivier François to Green Car Reports at the Los Angeles auto show. “We’ll try things. And if we’re able to crack the code of what’s next for the customer experience, the marketing, the distribution, the ownership model, then it will give use a healthy competitive advantage that we can then share with the other brands of the group.”
According to François, Fiat will pursue more than just traditional sales, suggesting a subscription approach like for an iPhone or ride-sharing services like Free2Move. François said the subscription solution could give customers access to the car anywhere from an hour to a year. “I would prefer to have the price by the mile, by the day, or the month,” François said.
“Maybe from time to time you have a limited availability of the most beautiful car you have ever seen, and that one you need to buy, no subscription, first come first serve,” François added. “And it will have a ridiculously high price and it will be sold out.”
François said that several versions of the car could be offered. It was shown at the L.A. auto show as a two-door hatchback with special versions curated by lifestyle brands Armani, Bulgari, and Kartell. It could also appear as a convertible, a four-door hatchback with a suicide rear door on the passenger side, or a performance-oriented Abarth model. François suggested the versions might be offered in six-month runs. An Abarth version of the 500e is expected to be shown next week.
While the last generation of the 500e wasn’t sold in Europe, its resounding success there provide different dynamics this time around. François said the brand will not discount the 500e as every U.S. sale will be one less European sale.
Right now, the Fiat 500X is the brand’s only vehicle in the U.S. It will stick around through its life cycle then fade away. After that, the 500e will be the brand’s only car. “I have a very clear plan to not do anything else other than the 500,” said François.
The 500e again won’t be sold in all 50 states, but this time it won’t be just limited to California emissions states. Fiat has said it will concentrate sales in select urban centers across the country. The company has not yet said what those cities will be.
with additional reporting from Bengt Halvorson
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