New Fiat 500 hybrid confirmed for Italy production from 2026

2 weeks, 2 days ago - 9 June 2024, autocar
New Fiat 500 hybrid confirmed for Italy production from 2026
Petrol-engined city car will finally enter a new generation after 18 years; set to be based on electric 500e

Fiat has confirmed that it will launch a new hybrid 500 in 2026, securing a long-term future for its big-selling petrol-engined city car.

The new 500 Ibrida will arrive by early 2026, Fiat said in a statement, meaning it will arrive 18 years after the current petrol 500. 

Production will move from Tychy in Poland to the Mirafiori plant in Italy that currently builds the electric Fiat 500e.

The 500 Ibrida will be powered by the same Firefly 1.0-litre mild-hybrid three-cylinder petrol engine as the existing 500 and the related Fiat Panda.

However, it's anticipated to switch from the current petrol 500's platform, which dates back to the 2003 Panda, onto the 500e's bespoke architecture. 

The move to retrofit an EV with an internal combustion powertrain is unprecedented in the European car industry. 

Several reports in March suggested that the bold measure was borne out of two key challenges. 

First was the need to up production rates at Mirafiori amid slow sales of the 500e and its Abarth 500e hot hatch sibling. Fiat reduced shifts at the plant in February and reserved the option of completely pausing the production line if sales didn't pick up. 

Second was the challenge of keeping the popular petrol 500 on sale, as the existing model falls foul of new cybersecurity standards introduced by the European Union.

Making it compliant with these would involve an expensive rehomologation effort.

Seventeen years on from launch, the petrol 500 remains a lynchpin for Fiat. Of the 173,187 new 500s sold across Europe last year (including Abarth models), 108,943 were petrol-engined.

The move to develop the 500 Ibrida also paves the way for a second generation of the Abarth 595 hot hatch, although Fiat's performance-focused sibling brand has yet to confirm any such plans. 

Fiat CEO Olivier François hailed it as a commitment to the Italian car industry, calling the brand’s home nation “our driving force and our future”.

François hinted that slow sales of the 500e in Italy prompted action, noting that "90% of Mirafiori production goes abroad".

No doubt the decision has also been taken to free up space at Tychy, where Fiat parent company Stellantis is soon to start building Chinese firm Leapmotor's new T03 electric supermini. 

François added: “To increase the number of 500s on the road in Italy and to answer the Italian customers, we have decided to produce the new 500 Ibrida.

The new 500 Ibrida has an Italian name, will be developed and designed in Turin and [will be] proudly made in Mirafiori.

“It's clear that Mirafiori plays a strategic role for the brand and that we're also continuing investing in Italy, the 500 and Mirafiori.”

To that end, the 500 Ibrida will use engines made at Stellantis’s factory in Termoli, on the Adriatic coast, exhausts fabricated in Napoli and gearboxes assembled at Mirafiori.

As well as announcing the 500 Ibrida, Fiat reiterated it will invest some €100 million (£85m) into the 500e, with plans to redesign its platform for new battery technologies aimed at improving its affordability.

This suggests an update for the 500e is also due around 2026.

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