Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has become the latest car making group to express an intent to move away from city cars, with the company’s CEO suggesting this will happen “in the very near future”.
The comments were made by Mike Manley during FCA’s third-quarter earnings call. He expressed a desire to move customers into the B segment, where the Fiat Punto used to reside.
Manley said: “In the very near future, you will see us refocus on this higher-volume, higher-margin segment, and that will involve a move away from the minicar segment.”
A number of brands, such as Ford and Vauxhall/Opel, have already exited the A segment (city cars), while the Volkswagen Group is unlikely to replace the Up, Mii and Citigo siblings with a similarly aligned product. The problem is increasing development costs because of tougher European Union emissions limits, which makes profitability in a class expected to be low-budget very difficult, even with FCA being the market leader.
It’s likely, then, that a replacement for the Punto is now back on the cards, and this could also provide the basis for a new Alfa Romeo Mito. No timeline is given, but the decision could be influenced by FCA's recent merger with the PSA Group, allowing the Italian brands access to the platform of the new Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa.
Fiat is still understood to be replacing the 500; Autocar reported earlier this year that an electric 500e is due in 2020, alongside a new Giardiniera estate variant. It’s unlikely that the project has been cancelled so close to its public unveiling, so Manley’s comments could be in reference to the cheaper Fiat Panda.
That model is the best-selling city car across Europe, with more than 105,000 examples produced in the first half of 2019, despite it being seven years old. The electric Fiat Centoventi concept unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March was strongly linked to a Panda replacement as soon as 2021, but that plan may already have been altered.