Ten years after its debut at Geneva Motor Show 2012, Fiat has officially discontinued the 500L. This little MPV was the first attempt of the brand to expand the success of the little 500 to other segments. It came as a successor of the Fiat Idea, produced until 2010, and as a response to the MPV boom that the European market experimented some years before.
Fiat has axed the 500L from its lineup in Europe without a successor in the pipeline. Consequently, it joins the large number of models that disappeared from the former Fiat group lineup without a direct successor. The Alfa Romeo Mito, Giulietta never got a new generation. The Lancia Delta was axed in 2014, leaving the Ypsilon as the only Lancia available. The Fiat Punto, Multipla, 124 Spider, and Marea never had a second chance either.
The main problem of the 500L was the time of its introduction. As it happens to other products of the former FCA, this MPV arrived when the segment was not trendy anymore. It happened to the Giulia in 2016 and the decreasing sales of the sedans. In 2012, the sales figures were already showing an accelarated shift from the MPVs to the small SUVs.
By that year, the European demand of MPVs was solid but dropping. After continuous growth since 1995, the sales finally started to fall since 2007, after the sales peak in 2006 at 2.24 million units. The trend was set by the Renault Megane Scenic in the mid 90’s and became a boom for more than 10 years.
Fiat started to work on this project in 2007-2008, when the SUVs began to take sales away from the MPVs. It started with the Nissan Qashqai and a very timid 8.4% market share of SUVs against 13.7% of MPVs. By the year 2010, when Fiat management released its 2010-2014 product development plan, which included the L0, or the code name for the upcoming 500L, the sales of MPVs in Europe had dropped to 1.62 million units, or 11.8% market share.
In 2011, the SUVs outsold the MPVs for the first time, and the 500L had not been launched yet. When it was finally released, Citroen had been selling the C3 Picasso, its main competitor, for 3 years already. The Opel Meriva had been available since 2003, and the Nissan Note since 2006; and Hyundai, Kia had their ix20 and Venga since 2010. Fiat sold the Idea between 2003 and 2012.
A big Panda
The other issue that did not help the 500L was that in terms of design, versatility and positioning, it was closer to a Panda than to a 500. Although it aimed to extend the success of the iconic 500, the 500L had more things in common with the Panda, a popular vehicle only in Italy. Therefore, the big 500 was never appealing abroad, as the majority of consumers tended to link it to the Panda.
Its introduction in the US never helped either. The consumers in America love big cars, and even if the 500L was definitely bigger than the 500, it was still a small car for their standards, and lacked the personality of the small brother. During the 9 years it was available, Fiat sold 35,317 units of the 500L in USA. The 500 (Fiat and Abarth) sold almost 196,000 units in 10 years, while the 500X has found 40,000 clients since 2015.
During its 10 years carreer, Fiat sold 620,000 units of this model in the whole world, including the 500L Living. A bad result that could have been avoided if they had launched it some years earlier.
Great Article and good diagrams, thank you Felipe.
However I do not think so, that 500L had bad result. As far as I know 500L had 100 000 – 140 000 annual sales plan. In best years it could reach or approach the plan. Its sales data show a tipical Fiat result. It reaches the peak at first two years, and after that it declined.
I do not think so also that anybody could predict in 2011, that category of SUVs had this great growth.
I agree that 500L was introduced later, but this car was the no.1 in B-MPV segment most in its lifetime (from 2013).
I think Fiat could learn its failures. 500L has much better results, than Mulitpla and Idea. Multipla under 13 years had around 330 000 units, amd Idea under 10 years (in EU) had around 210 000 units. So 500L is clear winner with its ten year career with 620 000 units.
About styling. Multipla has a strange exterior. According to Automoto.it the Multipla had interesting size, beacuse of PSA EUROVAN agreement. Fiat could not make MPV with longer than 4 meters. So they had to go below it. Another point that Paolo Cantarella tried to show the strength of Fiat C.S. and he gave them free hand in design. In 1996 there were I.DE.A Vuscia and Pininfarina Sing & Song concepts. There could be other choice. However Multipla had huge interior and the view was almost perfect without huge dead spots. Unfortunately more people dislike it.
Fiat Idea was too conservative. Italdesign gave a „safety exterior”. Fiat C.S. and Bertone lost the design competition against Italdesign. I think Idea lost the greatest in EU among FIAT MPVs but Lancia Musa and Idea in Brazil could correct its result. Idea also had 100 000 – 120 000 annual sales plan in EU, but never reached it.
I think Fiat with the 500L exterior chose the right way. Fiat C.S. with Robert Giolito could do as it was possible. 500L had also huge interior with lots of window surfaces. Fiat could lifts over the philosophy of Multipla without divisive exterior. I do not think that with „Panda XL” could reach that result.
Thanks. 620,000 units in 10 years is an average of 62,000 units per year, quite disappointing in my opinion. Of course, it had much better results than the Idea and Multipla, but it does not mean it was a successful car. The Idea and Multipa were even worse flops.
The product planning of a company must identify the consumer trends and preference changes. In 2011 it was clear the shift to SUVs. Instead they launched the MPV, and later a SUV, in 2015. Too late in both cases.
The Fiat brand is dead. Stellantis, with ungrateful Fiat heir John Elkann as chairman, can’t even be bothered with it.
It is clear that Opel/Vauxhall has been chosen as its de-facto replacement. It would have been an easy task for Stellantis to build a new Punto based on the 208/Corsa (to fill the void left by the discontinued Punto) and a Bravo based on the 308/Astra (to replace the third-world abomination that is the Tofas Egea aka Fiat Tipo), but Stellantis has apparently decided against it, which tells us all we need to know.
Why would they bother to bring a new Punto when the segment is slowly dying? Have a look at the Ford Fiesta!
A Bravo based on the 308? Who would spend that money on a Fiat when you have better reputation compact cars out there?
It makes no sense for Fiat to try in the B and C segments. It must only focus on citycars.
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If your arguments were valid at all, they would have been just as valid for the Peugeot and Opel/Vauxhall brands as for Fiat. The existence of the current 208/Corsa and 308/Astra shows that you’re wrong. It’s not about dying segments, and it’s certainly not about poor reputation (!), it’s about a deep disdain of the Fiat brand within FCA and then Stellantis, which I believe originated from Sergio Marchionne, and rubbed onto Elkann and other FCA employees (such as yourself).
So you think that Fiat as a brand has the same reputation/potential as Peugeot or Opel?
Yes, of course!
Felipe, why did/does VAG launch almost the same car in VW, Skoda, Seat,…sometimes Audi…now Cupra…etc????
You are right to say they should invest firstly in the most promissing trends but Seat or Skoda have the same reputation as VW???? Why did they launch Fabia, Ibiza….
Unlike stellantis all the cars look the same, outside and mostly inside.
Look at the Mini brand to see how a successful small car brand can be.
FIAT should be using the 500 style to compete against this brand as there are no direct competitors from within Stellantis.
A portfolio of
600 (based on 208 platform) replacement for 500X
600X CUV based on same platform
700X CUV based on 308
This would give them 2 CUV, a 3dr hatch and a 5 dr hatch.
The range could be like the Mini as well with a standard, Abarth and Abarth Competizione range alongside special editions as now.
Alongside this, a complimentary Panda range could compete with Dacia, with a range of
Panda 5dr 208 based CUV
Panda L 308 based CUV
Panda XL 3008 based CUV
All other FIAT cars and LCV need to be phased out to other Stellantis brands, namely JEEP and Ram for pick ups and LCV, while Citroen and Opel pick up the mass matket cars. Peugeot semi premium classic styling.
The Mini brand is an excellent example of what Fiat should not be. It is an evolutionary dead end, and I’d be surprised if the Mini brand is still around in 10 years’ time.
I think the best thing Fiat could do now is frankly to ditch the 500 altogether, Fiat has run the concept into the ground and there’s nowhere to go. At this point the 500 concept is nothing more than a straitjacket.
For those who think I’m crazy for talking sense, just look at Volkswagen, which wisely ditched the New Beetle after 2 generations.
What the Fiat brand needs more than ever is a complete lineup of models in the A-C segments. And until it’s able to deliver EVs with a realistic range of 500 km and a charging time from 0 – 100 % battery capacity in a maximum of five minutes (quite a modest expectation), it should steer clear of EVs altogether. Oh, and Olivier François needs to be fired.