Dealers will be critical in helping customers make the switch to the new electric Fiat 500, the Italian firm’s boss has said.
Speaking to Car Dealer in a roundtable of UK journalists, the president of the Fiat brand, Olivier Francois, explained how the new 500’s new electric powertrain and different ownership models will need to be explained to customers to help them understand and feel satisfied.
‘Our dealers’ ability to explain and sell is important because this is a huge shift,’ Francois said. ‘It goes from selling sheet metal to selling services.
‘A condition of our success will be our ability to explain that this is not just a nice car – it’s an ecosystem; there are so many ways to own it.’
From December, customers will have the choice of the old petrol-powered Fiat 500 – which will be renamed ‘Fiat 500 Classic’ – and the brand new all-electric 500.
The EV model uses a new platform to support its pure electric powertrain and Fiat will offer a range of ownership models.
One method of owning will be pay-by-mile PCH finance, launched earlier this year on the current Fiat 500 Hybrid.
For this car, customers pay an upfront fee of £99 and then £99 instalments over 48 months. They also pay 19.2p for every mile they drive, and a similar finance deal will be offered on the new electric 500.
‘Electric cars are expensive,’ said Francois. ‘We did our upmost to make it not too expensive but is it more expensive than another car? It is. So, clearly, the financing, the pay-per-mile and all of the alternative ways to buy are so important to bridge the gap.’
Head of Fiat EMEA, Luca Napolitano, added that the Italian firm is rolling out training to dealers to help them with customers considering switching from petrol to electric power.
‘We started a long time ago with a pragmatic programme within the FCA group and started the process with Jeep Renegade and Compass plug-in hybrids,’ he said.
‘We have the common objective within the group to make our customers satisfied. That’s why we are strongly investing in our sales force – our sales people in our dealerships need to be very well informed about how to simply explain to our customers the benefits of the car. In particular on the afersales side, too.’
Fiat is also improving its online experience for customers and giving them the tools and the training to make the switch to electric.
The new 500 launches in December with prices starting from £19,995. This model, called ‘Action’, gets a 94bhp electric motor and a small 24kWh battery, giving a range of 115 miles.
For an extra £3,000, buyers can step up to the mid-range Passion which gets a 42kWh battery and a 117bhp electric motor. That gives a 199-mile range and impressively it can be rapid charged from a 85kW charger, meaning a 0-80 per cent charge takes 35 minutes.
The 500 range tops out with the £24,995 (after the grant) Icon which gets a wider 10.25-inch touchscreen and larger alloys and fancier trim.
Fiat has also created a ‘3+1’ variant with a small rear door opening on the driver’s side to help back seat passengers enter and exit the car.
The ‘3+1’ is only for left-hand drive markets with Fiat citing liability issues of having rear-seat passengers in right-hand drive cars exiting into the path of traffic.
‘We can launch the car in the UK,’ Francois said, ‘but the question is how well received it will be. I remember how the Mini Clubman with a similar door was received.’
Francois admitted that Fiat is still considering offering the model in the UK, though, saying: ‘We need to go to clinics and see what the customers think.’