Reports circulating around Brazil’s auto industry indicate Fiat will end production of the second-generation Uno (known as the Mille locally) later this month. The Turin-based automaker has no choice but to phase out the Mille because a law that will come into effect on January 1st, 2014, requires all new passenger cars to come standard with airbags and ABS brakes.
To commemorate the end of the Mille’s illustrious production run, Fiat is gearing up to launch a limited edition of 2,000 cars called Grazie Mille, a play-on expression that means “thanks a lot” in Italian. Precise details about the car have not been published yet but Fiat has announced it will pack extra equipment and carry a small price premium over the regular-production Mille.
Fiat has sold over 3.6 million examples of the Uno / Mille since the first-generation model was introduced locally in 1984. Although its basic design dates back to 1989, the current Mille remains highly popular among Brazilian buyers because it is one of the least expensive new cars available on the market, and because it has earned a reputation for being exceptionally robust.
The same safety regulations that are euthanizing the Mille are making Volkswagen end the Kombi’s 56-year long production run before New Year’s. The fourth-generation of the Volkswagen Gol and the first-gen Ford Ka will both be phased out for the same reason.
The Mille nameplate was introduced in 1990 on a stripped-down version of the Uno powered by a FIRE four-cylinder gas-burning engine with a displacement of 999cc, barely exempting it from high taxes on passenger cars equipped with an engine with more than a liter’s worth of displacement. Initially available exclusively as a three-door hatchback, the Mille became so popular that it outsold the regular Uno by a wide margin and it remained popular even after the arrival of the vastly more modern Palio hatchback in 1996. Brazilian trade journal Automotive Business reports Fiat sold 10,000 examples of the Mille a month up until 2010.
The Mille was given a major makeover in 2004 that included a wide array of aesthetic modifications designed to propel it into the 21st century. These included a new hood, more rounded headlights, a radiator grille inspired by Fiat’s then-current design language and tail lamps with softer edges. The interior changes were minor and largely limited to a revised instrument cluster and a new three-spoke steering wheel.
All Milles have a relatively high ground clearance in order to cope with the rough roads of rural Brazil and some of the more expensive trim levels can be ordered with plastic cladding on the wheel arches to give them a tougher look, but the Giugiaro-designed body hasn’t changed in nearly a quarter of a century.