Fiat knows that it is a challenge to sell an electric vehicle to American consumers. Therefore, with the new 2013 Fiat 500e, which will initially be sold only in California, the automaker has attempted to predict customer pain points and has tried to remove the objections people cite when balking at the idea of electric car ownership. In explaining how the company has learned lessons from the EV makers that have come before it, Fiat says it has tackled four key consumer concerns: complexity, infrastructure, range, and price.
To make it easier to understand how Californians can benefit from EV ownership, the company has developed a website that assists potential buyers in determining what federal, state, local, and corporate incentives and rebates might be available to lower the cost of the vehicle, and walks consumers through the process of what they’ll need to do to take advantage of such programs. Fiat’s website also explains how to register the vehicle for carpool lane access. Additionally, Fiat dealerships that sell the 500e will have an orange hotline phone that puts a customer in immediate touch with a live operator to answer questions about the car.
Fiat addresses infrastructure concerns with a standard navigation system equipped with a charging station locator and a “range circle” for the map display that provides a good idea of how far the 500e can travel on its remaining charge. A free Fiat Access App allows the 500e’s owner to check charging status, manage charging, locate a charging station, pre-condition the cabin with heat or air conditioning in advance of driving the car, and more. It takes 23 hours to completely recharge a 500e using a standard 110-volt household power outlet. Use a 240-volt outlet, and it can be done in 4 hours.
As far as range is concerned, Fiat says a fully charged 500e will travel up to 87 miles before depleting its battery. And because some people might decide they want to take a road trip, for which the 500e is ill equipped, Fiat includes 12 free days of Enterprise car rental expenses per year for the first three years of ownership. This means that if 500e owners want to go to Las Vegas, they can, using a free rental car. Four years of 24-hour roadside assistance is included with every 500e, with no mileage restriction.
Finally, The 2013 Fiat 500e costs $32,500, double the price of a base 500 Pop. However, the maximum $7,500 federal incentive combined with the $2,500 California rebate reduces the price significantly, and some consumers may be eligible for additional rebates through work.
If a buyer prefers to lease, the 500e will be offered for $199 per month for 36 months with $999 down at lease signing, which is the same deal offered for the 500 Pop model. The financial institution writing the lease keeps the federal tax incentive money, but the person leasing the car gets the California rebate and any corporate rebates, which can be used to further reduce the cost of the lease, or can be pocketed and spent on plane tickets to Maui. Or gambling in Vegas.
Convinced yet? See what I think of this new EV after spending half a day running around Los Angeles in the Fiat 500e.