When Sergio Marchionne was running Fiat, he advised people to not buy the electric version of the 500, Fiat’s “Italian Job” micro-car. Why? Because each “sale” would cost Fiat a lot of money as the electric 500 could not be sold for what it cost to build, plus a profit margin sufficient to make it worth building. It was too expensive – and too limited. It was for these reasons what people in the car industry call a loss leader – usually also a compliance car. The latter referring to a car that’s built solely to satisfy government regulatory requirements, that’s inevitably sold at a loss – because very few buyers want to pay for them.
Sergio’s gone now and Fiat’s bringing back the 500, which will only be available as a battery powered device this time. It will cost $34,095 – and the price you’ll pay for that is device that might go 149 miles on a full charge.
When the Fiat 500 (no “e”) was last available new, just before the event all-too-many people continue to refer to as the “pandemic” (it’s a mistake to refer to that event as such for the same reason it’s a mistake to use the word “vaccine” to describe the drugs that were and are being pushed on people) it cost about half as much and could go about twice as far (about 300 miles in city driving; 365 on the highway) in part because it weighed about 2,500 lbs., which made it one of the lightest new cars then available.
The battery powered 2024 500 will probably set a new record-holder for the smallest, heaviest new car ever offered for sale. Just 142 inches long, the Fiat is so small it makes a compact-sized sedan such as a Honda Civic seem like a full-size car in comparison. The latter is 184 inches long – or nearly four feet longer than the little Fiat. The only car that was just slightly smaller than the 500 was the no-longer-available Smart car made by Mercedes-Benz.
How much will the battery-powered 500e weigh? According to preliminary reports, something in the vicinity of 3,000 lbs. – the difference (vs. the Fiat 500 sans the “e”) being the weight of the batteries. These push up the weight of this micro car to nearly as heavy as a current mid-sized family car such as the 2024 Toyota Camry. It is 192.1 inches long – or 4.1 feet longer than the 500 – but only weighs 3,310 lbs., just slightly heavier than the battery-powered 500 “e.”
Yet the device is being heralded by the complicit car press as the “lightest EV in America” as well as “affordable” (because it is, relative to the $50k average price for a new device) and something spectacular because it goes “almost twice as far” as the last battery-powered version of the 500, which Fiat stopped trying to sell (here) just before the event that was a “pandemic” in the same way that what you’re forced to”contribute” to Social Security isn’t a tax precisely because it cost too much relative to how far it could go.
The 2019 500 “e” had a best-case range of just a little over 80 miles on a full charge. Now you know why Sergio told people not to buy it.
Not that he had to do that.
Few did – for the obvious reason. Who willingly pays twice as much to get 50 percent less? That’s a good summary of the battery-powered, $34k and 149 mile range device that looks like the Fiat 500 but amounts to a total repudiation of the concept. As well as the point of the thing.
That being lightness, efficiency and affordability. The reasons for making small cars – or at least, used to be. Of course, that was before events such as catching a cold that 99.8 percent of the population didn’t die from were called “pandemics.”
It is boggling to witness the transitioning of what was, as recently as 2019, a $16k-ish economy car that almost anyone could afford into a battery powered device that carries what used to be considered an entry luxury MSRP heralded by the car press as something other than an idiocy and an outrage.
Fiat had trouble selling the 500 that wasn’t a device in this country because even though almost anyone could afford to buy it, most Americans wanted something bigger and were willing to pay more for it. So now the same car is being returned to the “market” (that term ought also to be retired in favor of something more etymologically honest since the market is not driving the proliferation of these devices) sans the one thing it offered that others didn’t.
That being a price tag well under $20k to start.
For that sum the buyer got a very practical little runabout that was perfect for city driving (it slots easily into parking spots) that could also venture out on the highway, if need be.
Even so, it didn’t sell well enough to keep it on the market and that’s why it no longer is. The only reason it’s coming back – as a device – is to serve as a compliance car for Stellantis, which is the corporate umbrella for not just Fiat but also Dodge, Ram and Jeep. The latter are also rapidly being force-transitioned into devices but in the meanwhile there is the necessity of complying with the almost here federal requirement (CAFE) that every manufacturer’s fleet average just shy of 50MPG. Ram 1500s and Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Chargers (RIP) don’t. But the battery-powered 500 “e” will likely be credited by the regulatory apparat as delivering much more than that, via the trickery of “MPGe,” which makes an EV that only goes 149 miles seem like it goes much farther by claiming it delivers 100-plus “MPGe” (112 “MPGe” in the case of the 2019 500 “e”).
Can you see?
Sergio is probably glad he’s no longer around to see it. But we’re going to have to deal with it.
The good news is that more and more people are seeing – and no longer believing. Sales of devices are petering out, chiefly because those who wanted one already have one – and the rest don’t.
The last device Fiat tried to sell didn’t – an after six years, Fiat stopped trying. How long will it take this time?
. . .
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