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Italy August 2012: New Fiat Panda still a rare sight – Photo report

Fiat Panda & 500 in Vintimiglia, Italy August 2012

* See the entire photo report by clicking on the title! *

The photo report saga continues: after Scotland and the French countryside, I thought I’d drive across the border to Italy in Vintimiglia to give you a quick snapshot of the ‘auto paesaggio’ (car landscape) there. Here we are hitting at the core of what made me create Best Selling Cars Blog: I have always been fascinated by the fact that you just need to cross a border to encounter totally different cars in the street, let alone a different language and culture. It’s my curiosity for these stark differences that triggered the BSCB adventure.

The Fiat Punto still dominates Italian streets, here in Vintimiglia, Italy August 2012

Armed with the latest Italian sales figures and knowing the new gen Fiat Panda has now led the market for 7 months in a row – a record for the Panda nameplate at home – I was bracing myself for a torrent of new little Pandas… Not so. I only spotted 3 the whole afternoon I spent in Vintimiglia. But then I remembered I should probably have held my horses a little. After all, the Panda has only been on sale in Italy for less than a year and although its share is around 8%, it is off a very weak new car market and a part of it comes from the previous gen still in the catalogue.

When I grow up I want to be a policeman and drive an Alfa Romeo…

…or a Land Rover

Reversely, the Fiat Punto had been dominating for 18 years spanning 4 generations, with market shares reaching almost 20% in 1995 and staying above 10% up until 2001. Plus the previous generation Fiat Panda had been #2 straight from its launch in October 2003, so nearly 10 consecutive years. In this context, you will understand why I was still faced with a sea of Fiat Punto, Grande Punto and 2nd gen Panda yesterday. It will take years for the new gen Panda to own the Italian streets, but it will get there if it continues at the rate it started.

Original promotion photograph for the 1957 Fiat 500, still present in Italian streets

And once it’s there, it will stay for a while as Italians have a tendency to hold onto their beloved cars. Case in point, I saw more first gen Fiat 500 yesterday than new gen Panda… Originally launched in 1957, the Fiat 500 was #1 in Italy from 1964 to 1971. Granted, it is probably an exception as there weren’t many Fiat Uno in the streets even though it reached a huge 24% market share in 1986

If it’s small it will sell in Italy… Here a Ford Ka in Vintimiglia, August 2012

One other observation was that Italians really do love their small cars. Yes I should know this just by looking at monthly car sales data but it only hits home when you see it for yourself. As long as it is small, chances are it will sell well in Italy, even models that are otherwise somewhat obscure in the rest of Europe. Along with the expected Fiats, Ford Fiesta, Citroen C3, Opel Corsa and VW Polo, I saw many Suzuki Splash, Mitsubishi Colt, Ford Ka and Kolin sisters (Citroen C1/Peugeot 107/Toyota Aygo).

Lancia Delta in Vintimiglia, Italy August 2012

I also was surprised by the frequency of Lancia Delta and Alfa Romeo Giulietta in the streets. Perhaps this is a posh particularity of the region, very close to the French Riviera. Finally, I verified the Italian trend towards more station wagons with lost of Ford Focus, Opel Astra and Renault Megane. To my big disappointment I didn’t see any DR cars (the Italian company that assembles Chery models locally). However during my last two trips there a few years ago I did see a DR1 (aka Riich M1) and a DR5 (aka Chery Tiggo).

The entire Italy photo report is below.

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