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Fiat is turning its Panda City cars into a whole family of 'multi-energy' vehicles

Fiat is turning its Panda City cars into a whole family of 'multi-energy' vehicles

Stellantis-owned Fiat has revealed five new concepts which it says will serve as inspiration for a family of future vehicles that will come in a variety of powertrains while sharing the same platform.

The new lineup, inspired by the Italian automaker's Panda city cars, will start with a new city car in July 2024, followed by a new vehicle every year for the next three years. Additionally, the concepts preview a pickup truck, a fastback sedan, an SUV, and a camper.

Fiat is hedging its bets and committing to producing not only electric versions of each vehicle but also hybrid and internal combustion engine versions. The automaker says this is to "ensure maximum relevance to customers, no matter where they live in the world."

The announcement, scheduled for this week's Geneva International Motor Show, follows several months of slow EV sales growth in most markets as automakers struggle to produce affordable models and a functioning charging infrastructure. Meanwhile, hybrids are selling at a faster rate than pure battery-electric vehicles.

Fiat leads sales of compact cars, with 1.3 million vehicles sold in 2023, but is struggling to maintain its presence in North America. The brand moved just 605 vehicles in the US last year, down about 33 percent from 2022. The Fiat 500e, the company's new compact EV, is targeted for the North American market – but it's unclear whether US car buyers will be interested in this little one.

The new Panda lineup aims to position Fiat as a brand with ideas beyond small city cars. The boxy concepts will undoubtedly undergo some changes before becoming reality, so it's unclear whether they'll retain their bold primary colors and eccentric design. Fiat says the new vehicles are intended to be both inspirational and utilitarian. Or, as the automaker says, "Functionality without fun should never exist."

"Look, we love to have fun," Fiat CEO Olivier Francois said in an engaging video introducing the concepts. "We don't take ourselves too seriously."

Fiat describes its city car concept as a "Mega-Panda", slightly larger than the current generation city car. But rather than building its new concept on that previous model, the automaker's design team looked to architecture for its inspiration, specifically the iconic Lingotto building in Turin, Italy, with its helix access ramp and famous rooftop test track.

This results in a number of oval shapes being formed on the dash and elsewhere on the vehicle, creating the familiar test track shape. Converting the former Fiat factory building into office space helped inspire a design language built around "structural lightness, space optimization and brightness". Fiat says this includes its choice of materials for the dashboard, displays and seats – including recycled plastics and sustainable materials like bamboo fabric.

The wheels are covered with diagonal stripes, and the front grille is dotted with tiny pixels. And do my eyes deceive me, or is that a special compartment just for skateboards in the driver-side door??

Francois says the city car will be based on the Stellantis "multi-energy platform", meaning it will be available globally and compatible with all types of fuel (or lack thereof).

There are some neat tricks, too, like a "self-winding" charging cable that Fiat says will make it easier to plug and unplug the vehicle. The high-riding position is intended to improve visibility for anyone driving a city car in an urban environment. But the interior space is also intended to invite drivers on road trips or weekend excursions.

The pickup is based on Fiat's Strada truck, which is the best-selling truck in South America. The company thinks it can move beyond its regional appeal to something more global – thus, the Pickup Panda concept.

Fiat promises it will have the functionality of a light commercial vehicle with the comfort of an SUV – but at a size more suitable for urban environments. A modular roof rack can be adjusted to fit a bicycle or surfboard, and the pixelated front light can be removed and reattached to the rack for off-roading adventures.

Replace the rear bed with a more aero-focused rear end, and you've got the fastback concept. Inspired by the Fiat Fastback in Brazil and the Fiat Tipo in the Middle East and Africa, the concept is aimed at the South American, Middle Eastern and African markets, as well as Europe.

And finally, a camper concept is for when you need to take the trip off the beaten path. The company says, "The concept pays homage to the 'fun-functionality' of the '80s Panda, combining the versatility of a car capable of driving around town with the features of an SUV and the soul of a dependable companion." Remembers.” Was created."

It's unclear which of these concepts will make it to the final stage and which will be left on the cutting room floor. Despite unveiling a total of five concepts today, Fiat has committed to releasing only four new vehicles over the next four years. Hopefully the secret skateboard compartment survives to the end.

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