Fiat CEO teases subscriptions, car-sharing for all-electric 500e launch in US

Stellantis plans to "explore alternative business models," such as subscriptions and car sharing, when it launches its all-electric Fiat 500e in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2024, Fiat CEO Olivier Francois told TechCrunch at the 2022 Los Angeles Auto Show.

The exec did not rule out limiting the 500e's U.S. launch entirely to subscriptions come early 2024, saying: "Maybe you will never have a price. Maybe it will just be usership. Maybe there will be there will be a combination of both."

The executive added cryptically, "There will be a healthy dose of digital, that's for sure. We all collectively need to reinvent the business model."

The all-electric Fiat 500e launched in Europe in 2020 and is considered a massive success for Stellantis. Whether it will be embraced by U.S. buyers is unclear. The original 500e, which was essentially a retro'd version of an internal combustion version of the same model, didn't fare so well and was largely regarded as a compliance car in the U.S.

This time, Francois suggested it would be different. When the Fiat 500e comes to North America in early 2024 it will have an estimated range of more than 150 miles, the ability to charge the 85 kW battery up to 30 miles in five minutes and will come with an advanced driver assistance system that provides "Level 2+" features such as lane centering and adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, blind spot detection and 360-degree parking sensors. The Fiat 500e will also come with the UConnect 5 connected car system and a 10.25-inch touchscreen.

If there was a theme to Francois' comments around the North American rollout of the Fiat 500e, it was experimental. It seemed the brand is ready to try a variety of sales and launch tactics for the region.

fiat 500e
fiat 500e

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

Stellantis isn't the first automaker to suggest that subscriptions could remake the car business. At the tail end of 2018, Volvo went as far as to say "don't buy our cars" during an event for its Care By Volvo subscription. Though Volvo intended to make "having a car as easy as having a cell phone," the program turned out to be anything but for some subscribers, who said they encountered delays and mixups with dealerships. Today, Volvo's subscription site greets visitors with a note that "inventory is currently unavailable online."

For its part, Francois claimed Fiat's strategy had little to do with cranking U.S. sales, saying he was "capacity constrained" and instead focused on figuring out the "future of mobility with a car that's designed for the city."