TopGear.com06 May 2014

The great divide: Fiat to split in two

Its cars - and showrooms – will be split into functional and funky…

The great divide: Fiat to split in two

Fiat's announced that it'll be splitting its future products into two distinct chunks - functional, affordable stuff like the Panda, and aspirational, style-focused stuff like the 500.

See, at the moment, Fiat thinks its cars don't have a singular, unifying... Fiatness. Even its current totems, the Panda and 500, are campaigning on very different values. By Fiat's own reckoning, the new order will help customers understand what their new cars are trying to achieve and, by extension, what that says about them.

But Fiat's keen to emphasise that this isn't simply about dividing the company up into value and premium cars, like Renault and Dacia. It insists that it's more of a mindset - everything will look interesting and quintessentially Italian, but they'll do different jobs. So the 500 side will take care of style and technology, while the Fiat stuff will focus on space efficiency and economy. Not just to buy, but at the pumps.

Even the showrooms are getting split. The restrotastic 500, 500L, and upcoming 500X get their own Sixties-spec space, while the more hose-down stuff like the Panda, and upcoming Jeep Renegade-based SUV, will have their own corner. Where, presumably, you'll have to pay for a coffee.

As we mentioned here, there are firm plans for Bravo and Punto replacements, which would fit more naturally into the rugged economical camp. That leaves space for a sporty two-seater in the 500 zone. Especially considering its population Stateside, where it outsells the range currently outsells Mini's.

It's not the first time Fiat's split itself in two. But, previously, the differentiation was a little more subtle. Back in the sixties, it signified that you were driving something a bit everyman by fitting a plain, rectangular badge, while sportier stuff like the 124 Sport got a round badge surrounded by a wreath pattern.

This time, though, the company's plan suggests the difference will be a tad more distinctive. Will this bipolar approach pay off?

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