Stellantis Unwraps Two Mass-Market EVs in Affordability Push (Bloomberg)
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Stellantis NV showed off two new electric vehicles in Italy as part of a push by the carmaker to win over mass-market buyers and fend of low-cost competition from China.
The company presented the battery-powered Fiat 600 compact sport utility vehicle and an electric revamp of the 1930s Topolino quadricycle at its Turin factory late Tuesday. The SUV starts at €35,950 ($39,135), while the Topolino — Italian for “little mouse” — will cost from €9,890.
Yet while the unwrapping ceremony took place in Italy, the vehicles will be produced at plants in Morocco and Poland, respectively, as Stellantis tries to keep the costs of building EVs in check. At the same time, the carmaker is coming under rising pressure from local politicians to safeguard production and jobs in western Europe.
Chief Executive Officer Carlos Tavares is overhauling Stellantis’s industrial footprint — including with stringent cost reductions — at a time when governments in Italy and France are trying to protect local industries shifting to EVs. Unions have complained that Stellantis isn’t investing enough in maintaining factories, citing clogged toilets and un-mowed grass.
The maker of Jeeps and Alfa Romeos plans to cut as many as 2,000 jobs in Italy this year — some 4.3% of its workforce in the country — as it retools plants to make electric and plug-in hybrid models. Tavares has warned of an influx of cheap Chinese electric vehicles into Europe, ruled out making small EVs in high-cost countries such as France and said Stellantis is considering producing in India in response.
At the same time, the manufacturer has pledged to boost production at its Melfi plant in southern Italy and is moving ahead with plans for a battery factory in Termoli. It’s also turning its iconic Turin facility into an EV hub.
“Stellantis has profound roots here in Italy, where we have a glorious past, a strong present and exciting future,” Chairman John Elkann said at the Turin event.
Still, Italian officials have dialed up the pressure on Stellantis to keep local plants up and running amid concerns that the shift to EVs will require significantly fewer workers. The country even has room for another mass-market carmaker to meet rising demand for EVs, Industry Minister Adolfo Urso said last month, citing Stellantis’s higher output in France.
The country’s auto lobby suggested Italy should invest in Stellantis to boost its influence, though Finance Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti dismissed the notion at Bloomberg’s Italy Capital Markets Forum in early June.