Fiat wants to transform the cheeky 500 city car into an urban Tesla

2019 Fiat 500 Abarth
Bradley Iger/FCA

The Fiat 500 has entered its 12th year on the market; it was already three years old when it arrived in the United States in 2010. That’s dinosaur-like in the automotive industry, but Fiat plans to replace its cheeky, design-led city car in the near future by borrowing a page from Tesla’s playbook.

The Italian automaker confirmed the next generation of the 500 will arrive exclusively with an electric powertrain. It will be “a new object,” Fiat marketing chief Olivier Francois told British magazine Auto Express. He added the model will be “kind of an urban Tesla, with beautiful style. Italianess, dolce vita in an electric car.” The executive also confirmed the next 500 won’t be offered with a gasoline- or a diesel-powered engine.

The shift away from gasoline and toward electricity is hardly surprising, and it’s not necessarily due to an overwhelming demand for EVs. Volkswagen announced a similar move with the Up, a pocket-sized city car not sold in the United States. The company explained that making small cars compliant with upcoming emissions regulations is so costly that the only way to keep selling them without losing money is to power them by batteries. Smart came to a similar conclusion with the ForTwo, and other automakers will certainly make the same decision in the coming years.

The 500 will move in a more upmarket direction as it goes electric, which is where the Tesla influence will enter the equation. It already appeals to buyers seeking a premium city car, and making it a little bit more expensive will help Fiat offset the cost of developing electric technology. Pricing information hasn’t been announced yet, but Digital Trends expects it will cost more than the current model (pictured above), which starts at $16,495. For the money, buyers will get a car that’s better built, and fitted with a lot more tech features than the rather basic ones Fiat offers today.

Fiat will unveil the next 500 during the 2020 edition of the Geneva Auto Show, and the model will go on sale across Europe shortly. Whether Fiat will bring the 500 back to the United States remains up in the air; the company might choose to keep selling the current-generation car for several more years as it waits to see whether demand for an electric city car picks up.

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