The Fiat 124 Spider's future is uncertain

27 August 2019 - Autoblog

The Fiat 124 Spider's future is uncertain

CEO says the brand has 'no legitimacy' in sporty cars

Earlier this month, Fiat brand CEO Olivier Francois explained to Autocar that Fiat would re-focus on "the right balance between the two dimensions: the Fiat 500 family and family transportation. There will be no big cars, no premium cars, no sporty cars because they have no legitimacy. We will be present in the C-segment [Ford Focus class] but not much more. All models will sit within 3.5m and 4.5m (11.5 to 14.8 feet). This is where Fiat will play. We need more EVs. And we need more 500 models that look legitimate enough to take higher pricing." Francois didn't say the 124 Spider is doomed, but Autocar understands that a second generation of the Mazda MX-5/Miata-based roadster is "unlikely."

The comments on the 124 Spider come in the wake of Fiat pulling the droptop from the UK market because the car wasn't making money. The CEO said the partnership that created the convertible made sense, yet that while the 124 is profitable overall, "such a car may not be key to the future of the brand. It is not what I'd call a pure, absolute Fiat, but for now, it remains an interesting opportunity."

The 124 Spider costs a touch less than the MX-5/Miata in the U.S., the opposite of UK pricing; nevertheless, the Mazda handily outsells the Italian after three years on sale. If Mazda keeps the fourth generation Miata around for 10 years as it did with the third generation, though, there could be a few years left to enjoy the 124 Spider even in the face of declining sales.

The future of the Fiat brand in Europe will be built on the 500 on the next Panda city cars, joined by "a range of larger vehicles suitable for families;" one-third of the city cars sold in Europe are Fiats. The brand's U.S. lineup, aside from Abarths, is four 500-based cars and the 124 Spider. The 500 range will go upscale in order to justify higher prices to pay for electrified 500 and Panda platforms. A new electric 500 is expected next year, Francois describing that car in March as, "A new 500, totally renewed. A new object. Totally electric. It's kind of an urban Tesla, with beautiful style. Italianess, dolce vita in an electric car." The next 500e is predicted to debut at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show with a set of rear-hinged doors for easier ingress and a modular battery that starts at 62 miles of range but can be upgraded "by renting, buying, or leasing."

The 500X will get a new generation, but rumors suggest the 500L will go away, replaced by a five-door, C-segment 500 Giardiniera station wagon in Europe.

The revamped Panda, not expected until 2021, will take its cues from the Centoventi concept revealed in Geneva this year and branch into a range of family-focused models. The small SUV that will replace the Tipo sedan/hatchback/wagon line could be built on the Jeep Renegade platform, and also borrow a heap of Centoventi cues.


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