Cars

Fiat brings its highly customizable Centoventi electric concept to CES 2020

CES is all about the future, but Fiat will use it to celebrate the past as well. At CES 2020, the Italian automaker will show off an electric car concept called the Centoventi. First seen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, the concept’s name means “120” in Italian, signifying Fiat’s 120 years in the car business.

The number-based name certainly fits with other Fiat models like the 500 and 124 Spider, and the boxy shape resembles past no-nonsense Fiat designs such as the original Uno or Panda. But this isn’t just another small hatchback. The Centoventi is designed to be highly customizable. Owners can continually change the car to suit their needs, rather than trade it in for something else.

If the Centoventi went into production (Fiat hasn’t confirmed anything), it would only be painted in one color. But owners would still be able to change the color by swapping out the roof panel, bumpers, wheel covers, and choosing different exterior vinyl wraps. Customers would have four color options under a program cutely named “4U.” The interior has a modular design that will allow owners to install “interchangeable interior accessories” in a “plug and play” fashion, according to Fiat.

Even the battery pack is customizable. The Centoventi can be configured for between 60 miles and 300 miles of range. This is vaguely similar to Tesla’s previous practice of selling one battery pack, but using software to limit range on entry-level models. However, Fiat indicated extra range could be temporarily unlocked for longer trips. A press release said the setup would be “perfect for urban commuting and a weekend getaway by the sea or in the mountains.”

The Centoventi also features two outward-facing screens — one in the windshield, and one in the tailgate. They’re meant to project messages to passersby when the car is parked. Fiat suggested these could be used to show that the driver has paid for parking, or whether the car is “busy” or “free” (if it’s part of a car-sharing service, presumably), but that hardly seems worth the extra cost of installing screens.

Fiat’s future electric car plans are unclear. The automaker currently makes an electric version of the 500, but only to satisfy California’s zero-emission vehicle mandate, which requires high-volume automakers to sell battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell cars in the state. Fiat has never shown much interest in marketing the electric 500 –called 500e — elsewhere. The electric model will be dropped from the United States along with the rest of the 500 lineup, and it’s unclear if anything will replace it. Fiat has said the next 500 will be electric only, but the car may not be sold in the U.S. The 500 is being withdrawn just as rival Mini launches its electric Cooper SE.

Fiat’s American siblings will also appear at CES 2020. Chrysler will show its Airflow Vision concept, while Jeep will unveil plug-in hybrid versions of the Wrangler, Compass, and Renegade, dubbed “4xe.”

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