Fiat Panda takes aim at the Nissan Qashqai

Fiat Panda
7 Mar, 2013 5:19pm Steve Fowler

The Fiat Panda range has “room for expansion”, according to Fiat's CEO

The Fiat Panda range could expand to include a Nissan Qashqai rival, while a performance model is also on the cards.

Speaking to Auto Express at the Geneva Motor Show, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “There are two cars in Fiat’s DNA – the Panda and 500. The Panda has more expansion potential.”

Fiat insiders confirmed that a larger member of the Panda family is under consideration, with the company looking to take a slice of the growing C-SUV segment that includes the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti, as well as more premium models such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

Fiat thinks the Panda family – which currently includes the standard model, plus 4x4 and Trekking models – could expand further, and it could share technology with sister brand Jeep.

The upcoming 500X crossover will form the basis of a new supermini-sized Jeep SUV, set to be launched next year, while a larger Panda crossover could also share its platform and engines with Jeep models. However, don’t expect to see a Panda SUV until 2015 at the earliest.

A hot Panda based on the current car is likely to join the range before then, possibly powered by the 104bhp version of Fiat’s two-cylinder twin air engine. The old model Panda 100HP warm hatch had quite a following, so Fiat would like to recreate that buzz with the new model.

While the Panda range is expanding, Marchionne confirmed that the 500 range will reach its limits when the 500X is launched. “We’ve intentionally been building a 500 family and we’ve seen varying degrees of success,” said Marchionne, “We need to be careful not to peel back the onion too far in spite of our designers’ gazillion ideas. The 500X will probably be the last version of the 500.”

While Fiat has publicly concentrated on the 500 and Panda families, it hasn’t forgotten its other models. “Bravo, Punto and Freemont are all in development and we’ll see them in better shape in 2015,” said Marchionne.