Fiat is turning its Panda city cars into a whole family of ‘multi-energy’ vehicles

Stellantis-owned Fiat unveiled five new concepts that it says will inspire a future car family that will be available in different powertrains and share the same platform.

The new range, inspired by the Italian carmaker’s Panda city cars, will launch in July 2024 with a new city car, followed by a new vehicle every year for the next three years. In addition, the concepts preview a pickup, a fastback sedan, an SUV and a camper.

Fiat is hedging its bets and committing to producing not only electric versions of each vehicle, but also hybrid and combustion engine versions. The automaker says this is to “ensure maximum relevance for customers wherever they live in the world.”

The new line-up, inspired by the Italian carmaker’s Panda city cars, will launch in July 2024

The announcement, timed for the Geneva International Motor Show this week, follows several months of slowing EV sales growth in most markets as automakers struggle to produce affordable models and working charging infrastructure. Hybrids, meanwhile, are being sold at a faster pace than purely battery-electric vehicles.

Fiat is the leader in compact car sales, with 1.3 million vehicles sold in 2023, but has struggled to maintain its presence in North America. The brand moved just 605 vehicles in the US last year, about 33 percent fewer than in 2022. The Fiat 500e, the company’s new compact electric car, is aimed at the North American market – but it’s unclear whether US car buyers will be interested are in something so small. .

The new Panda range aims to position Fiat as a brand with ideas that go beyond small city cars. The boxy concepts will undoubtedly undergo some changes before they become reality, so it’s unclear whether they’ll keep their bold primary colors and whimsical designs. Fiat says the new vehicles are intended to be both inspiring and useful. Or, as the automaker puts it: “Functionality could never exist without fun.”

“Look, we like to have fun,” said Fiat CEO Olivier Francois in a charming video introducing the concepts. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

That translates into lots of ovals, in the dashboard and elsewhere around the vehicle, building on the familiar shape of the test track. The former Fiat factory building turned office space has helped inspire a design language built around ‘structural lightness, space optimization and clarity’. Fiat says this also applies to the choice of materials for the dashboard, display and seats, including sustainable materials such as recycled plastic and bamboo fabrics.

The wheels are covered with diagonal tires and the front grille is covered with small pixels. And are my eyes deceiving me, or is that a special compartment just for skateboards in the driver’s door??

Francois says the city car will be based on Stellantis’ ‘multi-energy platform’, meaning it will be available worldwide and compatible with all types of fuel (or lack thereof).

There are also some neat tricks, such as a ‘self-winding’ charging cable that Fiat says will make connecting and disconnecting the vehicle easier. A high driving position is intended to improve visibility for anyone driving the city car in an urban environment. But the interior space is also intended to invite drivers for road trips or weekend excursions.

The pickup is intended to build on Fiat’s Strada truck, which is a bestseller in South America. The company thinks it can grow beyond its regional appeal into something global: the Panda pickup concept.

Fiat promises it will have the functionality of a light commercial vehicle, with the comfort of an SUV, but in a size better suited to urban environments. A modular roof rack can be customized to fit bikes or surfboards, and the pixelated headlights can be removed and reattached to the rack for off-road adventures.

Replace the rear bed with a more aerodynamically focused rear end and you have the fastback concept. Inspired by the Fiat Fastback in Brazil and the Fiat Tipo in the Middle East and Africa, the concept is aimed at the South American, Middle Eastern and African markets, as well as Europe.

Francois says the ‘sporty touch’ will increase its appeal. Or it can be supersized to become an SUV, which the company calls its “Giga-Panda.” Going a step further from the brand’s small car roots, the SUV concept will be aimed at families and people who need more space. Under the hood – or floorboards, as it were – the Panda SUV concept will be available in pure battery-electric, hybrid or gas-powered engine models.

And finally, there is a camper concept if you want to go off the beaten track. “This concept pays tribute to the ‘functionality’ of the 1980s Panda and recalls the versatility of a car made for the city, with the features of an SUV and the soul of a faithful companion,” it said company.

It is not clear which of these concepts will make it to the final phase and which will remain on the editing room floor. Fiat has committed to launching just four new vehicles over the next four years, despite a total of five concepts being unveiled today. Hopefully the secret skateboard compartment survives until the end.

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