Olivier François has a problem. He’s been nursing, nurturing and nibbling away at an idea he had several years ago – a rather good idea – and although that thought has been turned into a three-dimensional object for us all to see, he doesn’t know when it should be turned into something that all of us might buy.
François is chief marketing officer at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and head of the Fiat brand. His idea is how to set about replacing the Panda, Fiat’s most charmingly basic model, with a car that will have legs for a greener 21st century.
One look at the Centoventi, Fiat’s concept car celebration of its 120th anniversary, tells you that François and his team have been mulling a lot more than a straightforward replacement for the third-generation Panda. The car you see here would be offered with only one main paint colour – pale grey – in its most basic form and shorn of much equipment. There would be multiple optional add-ons to configure the interior, dashboard and roof, as well as the more fundamental choice of an all-electric drivetrain. More specifically, the electric version would be an affordable battery model, coming as standard with a range of no more than 62 miles. You might well consider this unacceptably limiting, even for an urban runabout. In which case, you can order another 62 miles’ worth of add-on battery pack, by buying, leasing or even renting it, and a couple of packs beyond that, too.
In fact, the Centoventi, and by implication the next Panda, could be all about the add-ons. Among the cornucopia of ideas that it carries is a one-model offering, to which you can add as many or as few options as you like, either when you buy, or after you’ve bought. One benefit of the single-model approach, says François, is that there’s only one version of the car’s wiring loom, complete with all the plug-and-play possibilities needed for post-sale upgrades and add-ons.