Fiat Panda axed in Australia

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The unsung Fiat Panda has been quietly discontinued from Australia after fewer than two years on the market. Panda sales have been running at about one-tenth the level of the better-known Fiat 500.

As such, Fiat Chrysler Australia has decided to rationalise (re-align) its range, given it will soon launch a pair of brand new models — the 500X crossover and 124 roadster — to keep its dealers occupied.

Demand for the little Italian hero — oft-cited as a quirky journo favourite — never really took off in Australia. Go to Italy, and you see almost nothing but Fiat Pandas, old and new.

Fiat Panda Easy front side

Since launch in late 2013, Fiat’s Australian arm has registered only 577 Pandas. Over the same period it has sold 5678 Fiat 500/Abarths.

The Panda launched in Australia in October 2013 after more than three decades (in multiple generations) on sale in Europe. The boxy little hatch famous for its squircles launched at an expensive $16,500, topping out at $24,000 for the Trekking crossover.

However, the company regularly offered deals such as this one, where the Pop was going for $14,500 drive-away. You can get super low-mileage ones for less than $10,000 nowadays, including with the brilliant TwinAir two-cylinder engine option.

Fiat Panda Pop steering wheel

With such strong competition in the light car market — led by the Mazda 2, Hyundai i20, Suzuki Swift, Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris — as well as having internal competition from the 500 micro car, the Panda’s lot was always tough.

It didn’t help that the base Pop was available with a five-speed manual gearbox only. It also didn’t help that those options available with an auto got an ‘automated manual’ Dualogic ‘box rather than a conventional self-shifter.

The company isn’t ruling out a return to the Panda at some point — potentially with the next-generation car due around 2018.

Fiat Panda Easy suburb driving

“The Panda is a hugely successful car globally for Fiat, but it hasn’t resonated with Australian buyers the way that we would have liked it to,” said FCA Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty.

FCA Australia is also keen to point out that it has a pair of fun new cars coming, the 500X to tap into the booming baby crossover segment later this year and the Fiat 124 in 2016.

“With both the Fiat 500X and 124 to launch in Australia soon, we have been looking at the Fiat line-up in Australia to see what has been working and what hasn’t worked so well,” he said.