Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fiat Panda celebrates 30 years of success and innovation

Fiat Panda II AlessiImage via Wikipedia

The Fiat Panda model celebrates 30 years and, with 6 million units registered, is established as by far the most widely sold city-car. This extraordinary achievement was celebrated on the first day of the Geneva Motor Show 2010, complete with cake and candles, the same stage that saw its debut in 1980, the beginning of a long story of success and innovation.

The "Panda" model is part of Fiat's heritage, which represented a new and unmistakable way of seeing the everyday relationship with the car in automotive history and Italian society: more immediate, more natural, easier. That's why, over time, the Panda has become almost a Brand, with strong emotional value, to which Italian and European drivers have always been profoundly attached.

Following in the footsteps of an established best-seller, the new Panda debuts in September 2003, bearing not only the name but also the spirit of the model, translating the product values and personality that made it a genuine icon in the collective imagination into today's language. The same vehicle will establish itself as the segment's undisputed leader within 6 years: suffice it to say that from its launch to the present day 1.5 million units have been produced and that it closed 2009 with a record 300,000 cars sold.

The commercial success of the new Fiat Panda is also accompanied by the bestowal of many international awards, among which the prestigious “Car of The Year 2004” which, for the first time, was given to a car in this segment. In addition, the car's position in the segment is established by certain records: for example, it was the first spacious compact (less than 4 metres in length) to feature a diesel engine (1986) and, again in this category, it was the first to offer both four-wheel drive (1983) and a range of eco-friendly engines designed to limit fuel consumption (the Panda Elettra was introduced in 1990, one of the first electric cars). Also, in 2004, 2 Panda 4x4s took part in an audacious test drive which began in Kathmandu (Nepal) and ended at Everest's high-tech base camp: it was the first time that a little off-road vehicle reached this base at an altitude of 5,200 metres. An even more extraordinary feat if you bear in mind that the two cars were prepared only by making some modifications to the calibration of the engine management control unit to adapt them to the local petrol.

A curious fact: while, 30 years ago, an average employee would have had to spend 9 months' salary to buy a Panda (3,700,000 Italian liras), today, 6 months' worth are enough to buy the same car. The Panda has been able to stay in step with the times both in terms of functionality and quality/price ratio. However, the Panda is more than a city-car. It is a genuine "platform" on which Fiat has created an entire family of cars with the technology and attention to detail of a higher segment.

Finally, the Fiat Panda has recently undergone a light but expert makeover, without giving up the winning characteristics of Fiat's super-compact: innovative design, advanced technology made accessible to all and smart solutions to simplify and improve on-board comfort. Today, the new range includes engines both traditional (petrol and diesel, from 54 to 100 HP) and alternative engines (methane and LPG), combined with manual or robotised, sequential gearboxes (Dualogic), as well as versions with front-wheel or four-wheel drive, the latter enhanced by an Electronic Locking Differential in combination with the ESP (Electronic Stability Program). That's without mentioning the Special Series, created using the new vehicle as their model: from the Panda Monster, the 4x4 jointly-created by Fiat and Ducati (2006), to the Pandakars which braved the well-known rally in 2007; from the Panda Capri, which offered an exclusive courtesy service on the famous island, to the Panda Mamy, dedicated to mothers, with a wealth of standard equipment for safely transporting the smallest passengers (2008); from the Panda Alessi, a true design object, to the latest two versions, 4x4 Glam and Adventure (2009).

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