Fiat Chrysler had planned to leverage its new partner, Renault, to bring its electric vehicle program up to speed; however, with that deal basically dead, it plans to invest nearly $800 million in a battery-electric Fiat 500.
Pietro Gorlier, chief operating officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa, announced the automaker’s second-choice plan for during an appearance at the Mirafiori plant in Turin, northern Italy on Thursday, where the new EV will be built.
“This car was entirely conceived, designed and engineered here. It is a genuine product of ‘Made at Fiat’ and ‘Made in Turin’ ingenuity. It is another excellent example of the ability to create and innovate which abounds in our company and in this city,” Gorlier said.
The plant was selected as part of FCA’s commitment to invest 5 billion euros in Italy by 2021. The Mirafiori plant will be expected to produce 80,000 of the 500 EVs when at full production. It will be the company’s first EV in Europe.
The original 500 model was launched in the 1950s. The iconic little car is known affectionately as the “Cinquecento,” and is a symbol of Italian urban design. Using the very popular vehicle as the company’s first European BEV is definitely playing on the goodwill the vehicle engenders.
It also helps the automaker stick its word about investment in Italy, and Mirafiori’s 3,500 workers, who are reportedly looking for things to build. Workers are also expecting to secure the hybrid version of Maserati’s Levante SUV, on which production is expected to start next year, to help boost their working hours, according to Reuters.
However, it is uncertain if the 500 BEV will also be shipped to the U.S. for sale. The company’s previous dalliance with EVs also used the 500 in the U.S. and it didn’t sell well. Former CEO Sergio Marchionne wasn’t exactly a staunch supporter of the entry in 2014.
In fact, he repeatedly told anyone who would listen not to buy the little electric car because the company lost thousands of dollars on each one sold. Production of the newly-engineered 500 BEV will start in the second quarter of 2020, with room to expand later, Gorlier said.
The first-generation Fiat 500e wasn’t exactly a racer, putting out 111 horsepower and a range of about 80 miles. To be competitive now, the range will have to double — at least.