The demand for electric vehicles is definitely on the rise.
Automakers are saying so by flooding their green car production operations with billions of dollars in investment. The recent surge in gasoline prices at the pump has convinced skeptics to look at the potential of less polluting vehicles.
But despite all these positive signals, the cost remains a major obstacle in the adoption of electric vehicles by the masses, even if fans of electric vehicles like to say that, over its lifetime, a green vehicle is less expensive than a gasoline one.
But most consumers arbitrate at the time of purchase and focus on the price tag. Take the case of gasoline vehicles with an electric version. The classic Hyundai Kona has a base price of $22,595, while the Hyundai Kona Electric costs $49,900. It’s the same thing at Ford where the F-150 pickup/truck has a base price of $40,960 vs. $54,769 for the F-150 Lightning, its green version.
These significant price differences very often deter many consumers from taking the plunge into electric. The challenge for car manufacturers is, therefore, to offer an electric vehicle at an affordable price, which is not easy, because the various raw materials needed to develop the battery are expensive.
The Italian brand Fiat, which belongs to Stellantis (STLA) – Get Free Report, formerly Fiat Chrysler, intends to take advantage of this to give itself a new chance in the American market. Fiat has just announced that it will bring the iconic city car 500 back to the United States, but in electric form.
The announcement is a real U-turn, as Fiat had pulled the 500 from North America in 2020, due to very disappointing sales just nine years after its return. Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler who died in 2018, is known to have repeatedly complained that the group was losing up to $14,000 each time it sold a Fiat 500 to a North American consumer.
“We thought we were going to show up and just because of the fact people like gelato and pastas, people would buy it,” he said during the Detroit auto show in 2021. “This is nonsense.”
But ten years later, Stellantis seems to think there is an opportunity to launch the new generation of the Fiat 500e, the electric version of the famous city car, in North America.
Spearheading the brand’s electrification strategy, the new 500e will arrive in the U.S. market in early 2024, marking a North American expansion in Fiat’s global journey outside Europe, the company said in a press release during the 2023 Los Angeles auto show.
Towards a $22,000 Electric Car
Stellantis did not give further details except to say that the vehicle will arrive in showrooms in North America in 2024. But the Fiat 500e is already sold in Europe where it is one of the most popular electric vehicle models. Its price really helps to seduce consumers. It sells for around 21,000 euros ($21,500), after incentives.
It is possible that it may have an equivalent price tag, if not less, in North America, according to the words of Olivier Francois, Fiat CEO and Global Stellantis CMO.
“Today, more than ever, we are facing a global revolution, which means that customers are looking for more than just a car and we intend to embrace their changing needs,” Francois said. “The new 500e is more than a car, it is a social project to feed America’s appetite for change toward sustainable mobility.”
The Fiat 500e which will be sold in the United States will be imported from Italy. It should offer 162 lb-ft of torque. The company hasn’t provided details about the rest of the U.S. specs. They may be similar to what is offered in European markets: two battery packs and a 117 horsepower engine. Autonomy, on the other hand, is likely to differ. In Europe, the Fiat 500e can travel 199 miles on a single charge. But it’s more than likely to be a lot less in the US, at 150 miles.
The main competitors of the Fiat 500e are the Chevrolet Bolt EV, sold at a base price of $25,600, and the Nissan Leaf, sold at a base price of $28,040.
The car will be revealed next year at the 2023 Los Angeles Auto Show and will be available in the first quarter of 2024.