The car that brought the Fiat brand back to America will be killed off. FCA is stopping the production of the Fiat 500 and 500e due to slow sales according to Automotive News. The remaining inventory of 500s will be sold into 2020.
What Does Fiat Make?
Fiat 500s are built in Toluca, Mexico. FCA has not stated which, if any, vehicles will replace the 500 at Toluca, nor have they indicated if a new 500 is in the works. This leaves only the 500X crossover, 500L wagon, and 124 Spider convertible. However, further production of the Spider is in jeopardy, too.
Hailed by FCA as the answer for fuel-efficient city cars at the height of the Great Recession, the 500 was expected to hit 50,000 per year sales but it could never squeeze out those figures. From first-year sales of just under 20,000 units, the 500 climbed to 43,722 in 2012, then leveled off to around 35,000 the next two before a nosedive starting in 2015. Last year it sold just 5,000, while the first half of 2019 sales were down to 1,692.
Poor Initial Sales
The late CEO of FCA Sergio Marchionne quipped about the poor sales, “We thought we were going to show up and just because of the fact people like gelato and pasta, people will buy it.” He was funny that way.
Though the timing seemed right, gas prices started plunging and consumers refocussed onto trucks and SUVs, this just never allowed the 500 to get a good toe-hold in the US. The 500 has been quite popular in Europe, though.
The idea behind the 500 was as an homage to the original Nuova 500 from 1957. Power for the Nuova was from an air-cooled 20 hp two-cylinder engine, positioned in the rear like a VW. It was the Italian VW Beetle or the car version of a Vespa–take your pick. By the early-1960s they were everywhere in Europe due to their cheap price, easy maintenance, and small size preferred in busy downtown traffic.
Also called “Cinquecento” which is Italian for “500” production ran for 18 years with only minor updates. It was so basic that a fuel gauge was an option for years.
First Produced in 2007
Production of the new 500 actually started in 2007 in Europe. Looking much like its inspiration, it is larger and more highly finished than the spartan originals. Now the power comes from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder MultiAir turbocharged engine with 135 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. Both a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic is available.
The performance Abarth editions up the power to 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. 0-to-60 times are just under seven seconds. With all of that power, average gas mileage is 30 mph.
The closest thing that compares to a 500 in the US is a Honda Fit or Ford Fiesta. The Abarth edition’s closest competition is the Fiesta ST or Mini Cooper S.
The Abarth distinguishes itself from the standard 500 with a spoiler, dual exhaust system, and side sill ground effects. Inside high-back bucket seats, a racing harness, three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, five-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, a rear backup camera, and rear park assist are part of the package.