My, how things change. 7 short years ago, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler, was begging people not to buy the battery electric Fiat 500e. He told an audience at the Brookings Institute, “I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000.”*
Today, Fiat is singing a very different tune. According to Autocar, Fiat boss Olivier François announced this week, “Between 2025 and 2030, our product lineup will gradually become electric only. This will be a radical change for Fiat. The decision to launch the new 500 — electric and electric alone — was actually taken before Covid-19. Even then, we were already aware that the world could not take any more compromises. We were reminded of the urgency of taking action, of doing something for the planet Earth.”
Why is this important? Because Fiat, for all of its long and illustrious history as an automaker, has been primarily a purveyor of mass market cars — the vehicles that ordinary people use for ordinary purposes. Browse through the thousands of stories CleanTechnica has done about electric cars and many of them are focused on cars that appeal to customers at the upper end of the automobile market, people who buy Porsches, Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes. We have even covered electric cars from manufacturers of exotic cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Rimac.
General Motors says it will go all electric in 2035. Fiat intends on getting there 5 years sooner than that. This, folks, is big news. EVs aren’t just for the wealthy any more. They are for everyday transportation for everyday people who do everyday things.
Now let’s be clear. Fiat doesn’t much care about the US passenger car market. Fiat Chrysler in America is all about selling humongous pickup trucks, Jeeps, and 700 horsepower muscle cars. America and Australia plan to still be driving Belchfire 5000 sedans well into the next century.
But in Europe, where cities are incredibly congested and people normally travel shorter distances each day, having 400 miles of range is not such a big deal. Small, nimble cars are preferred over the ground-pounding behemoths Americans drool over.
Fiat has just introduced a new version of the 500e built on a dedicated EV chassis which will likely also be used for the upcoming Centoventi Concept EV. That concept, for all intents and purposes, is a preview of the next generation Fiat Panda. For now, Fiat’s focus is on city cars, but in the future it will also develop EVs on the STLA platform used by Stellantis for the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e. Sales of the 500e have been red hot in the home market recently.
The company is not just focused on building electric cars. It has plans to address the need for EV chargers in communities with lots of apartments and condominiums and is looking to increase the number of fast-charging points available to customers
It has also created a new partnership with architect Stephano Boeri to rethink urban environments for the EV age. The first fruit of that working relationship will see the roof of the Lingotto factory in Turin sprout 28,000 shrubs and plants to improve air quality near that manufacturing facility. Up to now, no one has thought of Fiat as a leader of the EV revolution. We may have to rethink our position on that.