Fiat has finally revealed the all-new Fiat 500. It was supposed to be the protagonist in Geneva motor show, but the Covid-19 outbreak ruined the plans. The company decided to present its new big seller in Milan right before Italy set to quarantine whole of Lombardy. Based on the first official price and in my own calculations, the cheapest version of the Fiat 500e could worth around €25,000. Would you pay this amount?
The version we saw was the fully equipped limited launch edition called “La Prima”, which is of course powered by an electric engine with a range of 320 km up to 400 km. The price? 37,900 euro. Following the case of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, whose top version Quadrifoglio was the first to be revealed, Fiat is expected to show the regular and cheaper versions in the coming months, after the pandemic is controlled.
However, the new Fiat 500 will respect the current positioning of the model, which is a semi-premium unique and exclusive city-car full of personality. It means that the higher price compared to its rivals will continue to be one of its attributes. Consequently, the entry-level versions of the new 500 are not expected to be affordable. On the contrary, they may be quite expensive.
If we assume a eco-incentive of €4,000 for a car like this, then the final price of the launch edition would be $33,900. Based on this amount, I tried to calculate and estimate the price for the entry-level version. First, I took the price gap of existing electric small cars like the Smart Fortwo, Volkswagen Up, Peugeot e-208, with their petrol/diesel counterparts. The difference is abysmal (see chart).
In the worst of the cases, an entry-level Fiat 500e would cost around €29,000 if we apply the current price structure of the Fiat 500, and based on the launch edition net price after incentives.
In addition, I also considered the price gap there is between the top of range gasoline Fiat 500 and the basic one. The current retail prices for Italy indicate that there are €4,400 of difference between them (excluding the Abarth 500). Therefore, in the worst of the cases, an entry-level Fiat 500e would cost around €29,000 if we apply the current price structure of the Fiat 500, and based on the launch edition net price after incentives.
The retail price would decrease by analyzing the price gap between the current top version of the Fiat 500 gasoline and the new Fiat 500e La Prima. The latter is 98% more expensive than the former. If we apply the same gap to the basic version of the gasoline 500, the electric counterpart would be priced at €27,200. And in the best of the case, if the incentive is not €4,000 but €6,000, we would have a final price of something around €25,000 for the cheapest electric Fiat 500.
This scenario leads to the question: would the consumers pay €25,000 for an electric Fiat 500? Is these price range helpful to achieve the sales target of 80,000 units per year? I’m afraid not, and as I wrote some months ago, I think that this time the price strategy and positioning of the car won’t work as good as it does in the gasoline segment.
Last year, 68% of the Fiat/Abarth 500 registrations in Italy had prices between €15,000 and €17,000. The cheapest versions counted for 16% of the volume, while those priced above €17,000 made up 16% too. Moreover, the most expensive Abarth 500 with prices above €25,000 represented 5% of the demand. In fact, if we exclude the Fiat 500 and focus only on the Abarth, 56% of its demand corresponded to the models with prices between €19,000 and €25,000.
Certainly, we can’t compare the electric Fiat 500 and the petrol addicted Abarth 500. They target two opposite consumers. However, the Abarth sales levels are a good indicator of how far the Fiat 500 model can go in terms of price. It is for sure a beautiful “toy” to drive, but there’s a limit, especially when you are not alone in the market as the Abarth is.
Competition is tough
One of the main challenges of a more expensive Fiat 500 is that it will enter other segments where the icon model hasn’t been before. The estimated price range of €25,000-€33,900 would place the electric 500 in the fields of petrol/diesel compact hatchbacks and C-SUVs, but most importantly at the same price level of other electric cars that are set to play an important role in the automotive electrification in Europe.
Firstly, it would have to face the competition from mid/fully equipped versions of the electric Smart Fortwo and Renault Zoe, and the entry versions of Opel Corsa-e and Peugeot 208-e, and Volkswagen e-Golf and Mini Hatch. Once again, as it happens in the ICE world, consumers would have to choose between functionality and personality.
However, the main strength of the 500, which has granted its success all these years, is not a strong attribute in this price range. The shift from ICE to electric must ensure the consumers their capacity to drive long distances without any worry, and design/exclusivity/personality would come at a second or third place. I mean, the attributes that helped the ICE 500 to succeed may not work in the electric car segment.