To be frank, Americans don’t buy Fiats. The brand sold only a few hundred cars in the US last year. But Fiat hopes to – finally – charm the US with the “immersive Italian experience” of its upcoming Fiat 500e – Stellantis’s first all-electric car in the US. Unlike many of those hulking SUVs we’re seeing, this sweet retro-styled city car is one of the lightest and cheapest EVs on the market. To set the dolce vita vibes, the car even comes with its own theme music.
But for the record, Fiat had a truly terrible year in 2023, selling practically no cars in the US – a grand total of 605 cars. It sold so few cars in the US that it is now discontinuing the few models it had on offer and going on all in on the 500e, according to a report in Jalopnik.
Already available in Europe, the 2024 500e EV, available for order, will go on sale in the US in the initial RED trim the first quarter of this year. It starts at a reasonable $32,500 plus a $1,595 destination fee, although it’s not eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit. The 2024 version is made in the Mirafiori factory in Turin, Italy, compared to the 2019 built in Mexico.
The new 500e keeps the cute, retro style of the previous generation but refreshes and modernized the exterior and interior. The two-door hatchback comes powered by a 118-hp electric motor for a 149-mile range – not amazing but good enough for most trips and daily use. The battery comes with DC charging at up to 85 kW, which adds enough juice for 31 extra miles of range in just five minutes, according to Fiat. Weight-wise, Fiat calls its EV the “lightest passenger BEV in the market” at just over 3,000 pounds (1,361 kg).
Inside, the car has a less plasticky look than the earlier version and a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with the Uconnect 5 software interface.
But it truly sets the mood, Italian-style, with its Acoustic Vehicle Alert System. The low-speed audio warning, which is standard in EVs, plays an Italian classical tune dubbed “The sound of 500,” written by Flavio Ibba and Marco Gualdi. The idea, says Fiat, is to create Italian vibes every time you step into the car.
Fiat has been around in North America for more than a hundred years, but things never really took off in the states. While a bestseller in Europe, lackluster sales in the US fueled a difficult, on-again/off-again relationship. Fiat brought its 500 to the US in 2011 (which was discontinued in 2019), and the 500e EV to California in 2013. A new 500 came to Europe in 2022, with no news on American sales until late 2022, when the brand announced its 2024 500e would arrive in the states.
Even in Europe, Fiat had a rough year too, producing 77,000 500e cars against the more than 90,000 forecast at the beginning of 2023, according to Automotive News Europe. Of course, its home turf of Italy has some of the lowest EV adoption rates in Europe, at just 4% of the market. But the Italian government is working to change that.
Plus the 500e too has plenty of competition from other EVs with a lot more interior space and longer driving ranges. Still, despite this, the brand is betting that it can win over some customers with its design and Italian charm. And honestly, this is exactly the kind of car that any city dweller or suburbanite would need for quick trips and short day trips. It’s small, affordable (although, granted it could be cheaper), and the perfect antidote to the SUV and truck bloat we’re seeing coming out this year. Perhaps too, as a longtime resident in Europe, I have long had a soft spot for the brand, but this type of vehicle makes sense for a lot of people: zero emissions, easy to park, and is less of a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists.
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