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Back to the future: Fiat revives the 500e with a new version to be sold across the US

Breana Noble, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

Stellantis NV's first battery-electric vehicle available for retail customers across North America goes on sale in the first quarter of 2024 with a starting price of $32,500 plus a $1,595 destination fee.

It's the Fiat 500e, a previous version of which was sold in California and Oregon last decade, and this time the company actually wants customers to buy it. A virtual reveal will happen on Fiat's website at noon Tuesday, after Stellantis dropped out of the Los Angeles Auto Show in response to the United Auto Workers' strike.

The iconic minicar built in Italy returns to the U.S. market after the automaker ended production of the Fiat 500 and its electric version in 2019 in Mexico. Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne famously asked customers not to buy the previous 500e, "because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000."

But now, EVs are being produced at larger rates in Europe, even if they're still in the early adopter phase in the United States. Their sales growth here is slowing, prompting a pullback in EV investments in the industry. Fiat's goal isn't volume here, its CEO Olivier François previously said, but to target wealthy, urban buyers mostly on the coasts with a zero-emission, fun-to-drive car.

The focus will be on online sales, such as through metaverse showrooms. The brand is employing alternative retail models like subscriptions and rentals like through Stellantis' Free2move car-sharing platform. Sneaker drop-like buzz cars will seek to maintain appeal with limited editions. Plus, sales will help offset emissions created by volume gas-powered SUVs and trucks.

“The 2024 500e is a modern, tech-forward take on a beloved classic, delivering a host of new safety features, while remaining fun to drive and true to its roots," François said in a statement. "Try not to smile when you drive this car.”

Fiat has been down to just one vehicle in its U.S. lineup: the 500X subcompact SUV. U.S. sales are down 46% year-over-year in the first nine months of 2023 with just 144 of the crossovers being sold in the third quarter.

The 500e returns initially with the 2024 Fiat (500e) RED, a collaboration with the (RED) project from U2 frontman Bono and activist Bobby Shriver in conjunction with The ONE Campaign, a nonprofit focused on eradicating extreme poverty and preventable diseases. Stellantis in 2021 announced a partnership to offer special-edition Jeeps and Fiats to help fund more than $4 million for pandemic relief efforts over three years. World AIDS Day was Friday.

 

A sale of this red exterior edition of the two-door, four-seater 500e will trigger a donation to the Global Fund to support prevention, treatment, counseling, testing education and care services to communities in need.

The vehicle has an estimated range of 149 miles from a 42 kilowatt-hour battery. A Level 2 charger can bring it up to a full battery in 4 hours and 15 minutes, while a DC charger can do the job in 35 minutes.

Unlike the previous 500e that had a range of 84 miles, the new model was built on an EV-dedicated platform. It's also wider and longer. It produces 118 horsepower, 162 pound-feet of torque and can reach 60 mph in 8.5 seconds.

There are three driving modes: normal, range that actives one-pedal driving for the best regenerative braking performance and sherpa that maximizes energy efficiency such as by limiting the top speed to 50 mph.

Inside is a red dashboard with an insert, rounded 7-inch digital cluster and two-spoke steering wheel that pays homage to the original 1957 Fiat 500. The vehicle has a 10.25-inch center screen with Uconnect 5. Seats are made from recycled materials.

Each vehicle will come with a home charger box system or charge credits through Stellantis' EV charging network, Free2move Charge. Fiat fans also will be able to buy a Fiat Pass membership to secure their vehicle, be in the know about future product and access the brand's blockchain-powered Web3 community.


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