Fiat plans to flourish in small car segment

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Fiat CEO says that Ford’s move to axe Fiesta is “an opportunity” for rivals it will make the most of.

Fiat is committed to a future line-up focused on small cars, despite other manufacturers withdrawing from the market – and company boss Olivier François has suggested Ford’s decision to axe the Ford Fiesta presents an “opportunity”.

Fiat is beginning an overhaul of its line-up as it shifts to becoming an all-electric brand. It plans to launch five new models in the next five years to join the existing Fiat 500e.

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Those models will start next year with a small hatch understood to use the Stellantis CMP platform that also underpins the Peugeot e-208. In addition, the Italian car maker is working on a range of models on new platforms inspired by the 2019 Centoventi electric concept, which could revive the Panda nameplate.

Fiat is focusing on small cars despite other firms abandoning the market due to the prohibitive cost of new regulations. Ford recently axed the Fiesta and Volkswagen might cull the Polo due to the forthcoming Euro 7 emissions rules. At the same time, manufacturers have been struggling to produce affordable entry-level cars.

“What we are super-focused at doing is A, B, C cars but with the right engine, body and technology,” said François. “The stuff the customer will really crave for in that moment. So small cars, but with a smart package.

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“The fact that there is no Fiesta in the way or Polo in the way is just fantastic, because it is really where we belong. It’s where people expect us to be. We have not done a new Punto since 2013 or something like that, but if you ask European customers to name their top B-segment brands, Fiat is in the top three.

“We need to own the B-segment again, and we need to keep owning the A-segment. We know why the others are leaving, and I understand: it is more challenging.”

François admitted that making small electric cars affordable remained a big challenge; He said: “The only super-profitable, easy way to go electric is to make it super-premium, because you embed the horribly high cost of batteries into something that is anyway expensive.”

He added that Fiat’s small car focus is “100 per cent” down to the resources it can tap into as part of Stellantis. He said: “Without Stellantis, we would not be in good shape. The Fiat business model or Citroën business model is based on economics of scale. When you trigger the synergies, it’s like being a kid at Christmas, because everything becomes less scary.”

James Attwood

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