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Last time I visited Italy was in August 2013 in Vintimiglia, and there the Fiat 500 was so omnipresent in the streets that I called the Photo Report “a Fiat 500-mania”. This weekend I have the honour of visiting Napoli, in the South of the country, and the car landscape is totally different. For once, there are nearly no Fiat 500s to be seen! This struck me as soon as I came out of the airport and continued the entire day. In 24 hours, I only managed to spot nine (9!) new generation Fiat 500 in the whole of Napoli, and two old gens! This is extraordinary, given the new 500 has now been on sale (and very successfully so!) in the country for almost a decade.
Previous Italy Photo Report: Italy August 2013: It’s a Fiat 500-mania – Photo Report
I can venture a few reasons for this absence, and the main one could simply be a practical one. Yes the streets of Napoli can sometimes be as tiny as they were in Ventimiglia, and that should be a boost, however cars are way more battered here than they were close to the French border. In fact it is a challenge to, pardon the pun, spot a spotless car. Whether they are new or old, cars in Napoli ‘have lived’ and you can witness it by the amount of scratches that adorn their robe. Would you want to throw a (relatively) overpriced Fiat 500 in this wilderness? Me neither… In the same vein, the 500L is very rare here: I only spotted 4 of them all day, including one taxi.
The second observation that hit me as soon as I started driving around in Napoli was the very high occurrence of the last two generations of Fiat Panda. If in Vintimiglia I was surprised at how few Panda I saw, in Napoli they are ruling the streets and I would say have ruled the sales charts since the introduction of the 2nd generation of the model in 2004, judging by the constant flow of them in circulation. Finally an Italian city that is faithful to the country’s models ranking I report every month!
Napolitano observation #3: the Smart Fortwo is everywhere. I will even go as far as saying it could threaten the Fiat Panda for the Napoli pole position some months! Yep, that much. There were some streets where 3 or 4 Smart Fortwo parked next to each other were a normal occurrence today… And it’s fair to say that sadly none of them has survived without a dent so far… The smaller the better seems to be the mojo for Napolitano car buyers!
Ok I’ll say it, the third best-selling model in Napoli after the Fiat Panda and Smart Fortwo should not be the Fiat Punto but be the Lancia Ypsilon. I saw comparatively way more of them here than I did in Vintimiglia, and all generations of the model which indicate its success has been going on for a while. Now here’s a paradox: you can argue the Lancia Ypsilon is almost as ‘pretty’ as the Fiat 500 and should shy away from getting its hands dirty in Napoli. Not so.
Another fascinating observation when it comes to the Napoli car landscape is the clearly higher proportion of foreign cars, notably French ones. Easy explanation here: Napoli is relatively far away from the ‘heart’ of the Italian car production world in Torino and Milano, and the moral attachment to buying national could be less strong here. The Peugeot 208 is a strong favourite, which is somewhat surprising given its national ranking. I would have expected the Ford Fiesta or Renault Clio instead. Another very successful foreigner is, astonishingly, the Ford C-Max, which I saw everywhere today in its latest generation.
The Punto heritage (#1 nationally from 1998 to 2011) is clearly visible in Napoli, with various generations of the model still very present in the streets as pictured above, but it is also clear that this heritage is fading out and giving way to the Panda.
The Napoli Photo Report continues below.