Opinion

'We still need small cars and Fiat is coming to the rescue'

Deputy editor John McIlroy believes that Fiat’s boss is offering hope for the future of the small car

Fiat small cars opinion

These are worrying times for buyers of small cars. The move towards electrification, ever-tightening emissions laws, and car companies’ quest for higher profit margins have driven several big players to leave the market altogether. Who’d have thought, even three years ago, that Ford would just kill off the Fiesta?

Small cars matter; they’re how vast numbers of car owners get around, for lots of reasons: purchase price, running costs, ease of parking – and the fact that many people just don’t need or want anything bigger. There’s a risk that lots of brands could turn away from those buyers, just when they need these products the most.

So there was some cheer to be gleaned, I thought, from the bullish statements made by Fiat boss Olivier François last week. He was speaking at the launch of the new Abarth 500e – admittedly, a car that is unlikely to come in at much less than £40,000.

But when he was asked if the malaise of the small-car market is worrying for a brand strongly associated with it, François came out fighting. “If there is no Fiesta in the way, it’s fantastic,” he said, “because small cars are where people expect us to be. We haven’t sold Punto since 2018, but if you ask customers to name their top B-segment [supermini] brands, we’re in the top three.”

Auto Express has reported previously that François doesn’t see Fiat selling cars any larger than regular family hatchbacks or SUVs. And the key to being able to make money on the smaller stuff is synergies – the bigger, the better. “Without [Fiat’s parent group] Stellantis, we would not be in good shape,” he said. “The Fiat business model is based on economies of scale. And when you trigger the synergies, it’s like being a kid at Christmas.”

Don’t expect François and his team to deliver a fresh Punto or Panda in time to put under the tree this year. But you can bet lots of car buyers will hope they succeed in making the numbers stack up sooner rather than later.

Now read our list of the best small cars to buy...

Editor-at-large

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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