The Fiat Punto exited production in 2018, and the brand has been without a light car in Europe since then.
That’s set to change.
But Fiat could have had a Punto replacement a lot sooner, according to company CEO Oliver Francois.
“Back then, in 2013, we did have a project to replace Punto,” said Mr Francois.
The third-generation Punto had debuted in 2005 on a then-new platform co-developed with General Motors as part of the two firms’ short-lived tie-up.
But it had been left to wither, receiving multiple facelifts instead of a new generation, and was axed without replacement in 2018.
Its axing came shortly after Euro NCAP re-tested the hatchback, giving it the authority’s first-ever zero-star rating.
Mr Francois showed an original sketch of the proposed Punto replacement, resembling the outgoing 500X – and therefore looking like a larger-scale 500 city car.
“[Sergio] Marchionne was skeptical about the B-segment, too competitive, not profitable enough, so we came up with a bigger 500 and they liked the idea,” said Antonio Massacesi, head of new products at Fiat, referring to the former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO.
“More aspirational than a Punto or a Fiesta or a Clio, hence, much better pricing, so we planned it and they approved it.
“Then few months later, we had to stop it, then it was a go again, then stop again, because actually to make it properly we needed a whole new platform, the old platform from the Grande Punto was out-of-date both on safety and emissions and none of the other brands could share the cost.
“So, a whole new platform for just one car? It was a no-go.”
Now that Fiat is part of Stellantis, however, it has access to more platforms that can be shared across multiple brands.
Under FCA, the only other brand selling vehicles as small as a Punto or 500 was Lancia (Dodge has sold rebadged Hyundai and Mitsubishi models this size, but only in Mexico), which made platform-sharing difficult.
Fiat’s new 600e, in contrast, shares underpinnings with models from DS, Jeep, Opel and Peugeot.
While Fiat has been without a light car in its home market, leaving a gap between the 500 and Panda city cars and the Tipo small car, its Latin American operations have had the Argo hatch and Cronos sedan to offer buyers in this segment.