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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.

The 2nd gen Fiat 500 is now an integral part of the Italian car landscape…

…while quite a lot of first gen Fiat 500 can still be seen on the streets.

The Lancia Delta does stand out from the crowd

A Lancia Delta showing off its tail lights in Vintimiglia, Italy August 2012

Mini Countryman in Vintimiglia, Italy August 2012

Alfa Romeo Giulietta in Vintimiglia, Italy August 2012

Do Italians really love their Station Wagons? Yes they do!

The Italians won’t say no to a nice Audi (but who would?)

This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. A few more random rants about your observations… 😉

    -DR: Firstly, one small correction: the DR3 was the supposed 3-door version of the DR5, a prototype that never (yet, at least) reached production; you may have seen the DR1, which is based on the Riich M1 and is actually selling reasonably well, and can now be seen in small numbers (at least around Milan); the DR5 sold fairly well at the very beginning of the DR story in Italy, when they were sold at the IPER supermarkets. It was only in December 2009 that DR organized themselves into a proper dealers’ network.
    -STATION WAGONS: yes, we Italian DO love station wagons… in the C and D segments, you do not sell well unless you have a station wagon, your name is Golf or your brand is Italian.
    -GIULIETTA/DELTA: The Delta is actually selling well, although I reckon that many sales come from fleets and rental lines. The Giulietta is extremely successful, but you also have to consider that historically the C-segment offers from Alfa Romeo have always sold well: whereas they were rare sights in the rest of Europe (except maybe Greece and Portugal), the 33, 145/146 and 147 have been quite a constant presence in the Top 10 or at least Top 20.
    -NEW PANDA: You said it in your article, it has been on sale for only barely a year, so it may still be too early for an invasion. I can see quite a few already here in Milan, and as a side note I believe that 2012 will most likely be the very first year since 1983 where the Italian bestseller will not be the B-segment offer from Fiat, be it the Uno, Punto, Grande Punto, Super Punto, n-Punto.

    End of the rants!

  2. Hey Matt, glad we had you over here in Italy! 😀

    Most of your observations were absolutely correct, let me just point out one fact: I understand you visited only Ventimiglia, and the unusually high number of old Fiat 500 can be explained by the fact that many cities in Liguria have extremely narrow streets and the old 500 still fits perfectly where most other increasingly oversized cars can only dream of zip through… That, and the fact that the old 500 has some sort of CULT status here in Italy, whereas the Fiat Uno is just an everyday car: this may explain why lots of 500s are still around and well preserved, while most Unos have met the junkyard after lots of “scrappage schemes” took place over the last years to push the substitution of old cars with new ones.


    1. Hey Andrea,
      I did love my little trip to Italy indeed! 🙂
      Thank you so much for these additional insights, invaluable as always.

  3. Some statistics about june 2012 convertible cars in italy
    1 fiat 500 c 476
    2 Smart fortwo. 195
    3 Mercedes slk. 183
    4 lancia flavia. 133
    5 bmw ser 3 cabrio 88
    6 peugeot 207 cc. 79
    7 bmw

  4. Hi Juan Felipe,
    Glad you like it!
    Indeed the Italian market varies greatly depending on which regions we talk about.
    A year ago I published a Top 20 ranking for each region of Italy over the Full Year 2010, you might want to check it out:

    The highlights then were:
    “The key to the Fiat Punto’s #1 spot overall is its strength in high volume-regions, a bit like a presidential election: the Punto wins 10 regions, including Piemonte (Torino), Lazio (Roma) and Lombardia (Milano). It is also #1 in Sardegna. The Fiat Panda wins 9 regions, including Toscana and Sicilia.
    Note the Smart Fortwo is #1 in Southern Tyrol with 2,134 sales, ahead of the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and Golf, the Fiat Punto only ranking 5th. Here’s a region that already buys like Austria!
    Reversely, Piemonte is logically the kingdom of Fiats: behind the Punto and Panda, the Bravo is #6 (vs. #18 overall), the Multipla is #7 with 4,477 sales or 55% of its total sales in Italy where it is only #56. The Fiat Idea is #13 (vs. #75), the Seicento is #15 (vs. #61), the Croma is #18 (vs. #57) and the Sedici #19 (vs. #50).

    The Top 20 by region for Italy in 2010 can be found here:
    (Click on the “Italy 2010 Top 20 by region” link)

    Hope you enjoy

  5. I love your posts! you are right, the new Panda is still rare to see in the streets but I want to clarify something. I live in Turin, home of Fiat, and certainly you will find lot of Fiat, Alfa and Lancia. Specially the new Ypsilon is very popular over there. The new Panda is also becoming popular but is doing slower. Lots of Bravos, Giuliettas, Deltas, everything. In July I traveled in the north part of Italy down to Rome and I saw a lot of differences among cities. Milan is another thing: a lot of luxury Germans and few Lancias. Verona has more Fiat and Ford. Florence is more balanced. And Rome is full of Smarts, S and E Class and less new Pandas. Certainly Italy is Fiat’s market but Turin would count for a big part of it.

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