FIAT SPA Managing Director Paolo Cantarella is the father of the Multipla.
The project dates back to January 1993. Cantarella asked Fiat Auto Styling Director Nevio Di Giusto to imagine a vehicle capable of carrying six people in equal comfort. He wanted plenty of luggage space, but said the vehicle should not be longer than 4000mm. Cantarella also wanted it to cost considerably less than a traditional big minivan.
The first styling model, called Big Boy, was completed in mid-1993. It featured six seats, but arranged in three rows of two. Development work continued, and a review took place in February 1994. During this presentation, it was suggested that the seating layout be changed from 2+2+2 to 3+3. But the idea was rejected.
In July 1994, a review took place of a concept named Jet 6 - so-called because its windshield looked like a jet airplane's. But the Jet 6 was longer than the required 4000 mm. Fiat decided to start again from scratch, this time adopting the 3+3 seating layout.
At the end of August 1995, Di Giusto showed Cantarella an idea for a tall, wide vehicle. It had plain sides and an engine hood clearly separated from the passenger compartment. This solution was called Moka, a type of coffee machine that has a wide base and top, but a thin waist line.
Cantarella approved it, and the final exterior design was frozen on March 15, 1996.
The work on the interior styling had begun in early 1994. One of the most interesting suggestions was a 'breathing facia.' There were no specific ventilation outlets - just hundreds of holes in the facia itself. Although this suggestion was not adopted, the Multipla's facia is still unconventional. The gearshift is housed in the lower part of the facia, and the instrument panel is in a central console near a sculpted central ventilation outlet.
'We designed the Multipla around six passengers and their luggage,' said Cantarella. 'Then we looked at how to put this concept in production with the lowest possible investment, but with great production flexibility.'