MILAN -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to quit Europe's minicar segment, where it is the leader, joining other automakers in axing their smallest cars because of increasing development costs to make them meet tougher emissions limits.
FCA CEO Mike Manley said the automaker plans to try to shift Fiat’s minicar customers to the "B" (subcompact) segment.
"In the very near future you will see us refocus on this higher-volume, higher-margin segment, and that will involve a move away from the minicar segment,” Manley told analysts on FCA's third-quarter earnings call on Oct. 31.
The retro-styled Fiat 500 three-door hatchback and the Panda functional hatchback dominate Europe's minicar segment but they are aging and are due for replacement.
The three-door 500 is 12-years old. It was launched in July 2007 with retro styling inspired by Fiat's original 500 launched in 1957, a car that became an icon. European sales of the 500 fell 9 percent to 100,150 in the first half.
The third-generation Panda went on sale in February 2012 and its sales rose 15 percent 105,534 in the first half, according to Automotive News Europe's sales by segment analysis.
Manley did not give the timing of the move away from the minicar segment but industry insiders say it would be a midterm plan that would happen by 2024.
Fiat is still expected to go ahead with the launch of its second-generation 500e battery-powered car. The car will be built at the Mirafiori plant in Fiat's home town of Turin with production starting in the second quarter of 2020, according to comments by FCA's Europe chief, Pietro Gorlier, in July.