The second edition of "Panda a Pandino", the international gathering of Panda owners from all across Europe – including Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, the UK and Austria – saw 365 of the three-generation model meet up in Pandino breaking all records and making this the biggest Panda gathering in the world.
Guest of honour of this second edition was the new Panda Waze, the most socially connected Panda ever, and rather aptly, one could say, since this event came into fruition on social media.
The original idea started as little more than a joke in 2017 when a young Panda owner from the south of Italy announced on Facebook her intention to drive with her friends in their little car - popularly known as "Pandino" in Italian - to the town in the north of the country of the same name. And word of mouth, typical of the social media channels, saw to the rest. On 18 June 2017, the official date of the first edition, more than than 200 past and present Fiat Panda cars turned up, from all over Italy.
The crews met up in front of Pandino Castle, the striking hunting residence of the Visonti family which dates back to the mid-1300s, where an event in the event was staged when some 200 cars spelled out the words "Panda Waze" with the aid of colourful boards to welcome the new Panda Waze.
The lively procession then left the castle to parade through several nearby towns and villages over a 27 kilometre route: first the lovely village of Gradella with its distinctive yellow-painted houses trimmed with red bricks, and then on to Rivolta d'Adda and Spino d'Adda.
Pandino castle dominates an area which is home to time-honoured local produce, like the Pandinella cheese, and the location of the one-of-a-kind Pandino Cheese School founded in 1954, with a dairy managed directly by the school. The area also has a strong motoring tradition: just a few kilometres from the castle is charming Gradella, officially recognised as one of Italy's loveliest hamlets, so dear to the heart of Count Aymo Maggi (1903-1961) who was one of the creators of the legendary "Mille Miglia" car race in 1927.
The success of Panda is extraordinary in itself. Over 7.5 million have been made since it was first launched.
Some of the participants to the event were special enough to receive one of the 11 prizes offered by the organisers. Prizes were given out to the best equipped Panda, the oldest Panda in show, the Panda that came from the further afield and the most extravagant Panda. Proceeds from "Panda a Pandino 2018" will be managed by Consulta dei Giovani, the entity organising the event together with various associations and with the City of Pandino to restructure recreational spaces for families with disabled people.
The Panda Waze is the first city car to display the Waze name and integrate the Waze navigation app into the Panda Uconnect app, in addition to being the most socially connected Panda ever, firmly in line with the genuine core of the Fiat model's mission to make the smartest solutions, which simplify and improve life at the wheel, affordable for all.
After all, Fiat Panda has always set technological records in its segment. For example, as well as being the first city car with 4WD (1983), the Panda was also the first car in its segment to win the coveted "Car of the Year" title (2004), and in the same year, it was also the first city car to climb to an altitude of 5,200 metres to the Everest base camp.
The long series of records continued in 2006 when Fiat Panda became the first natural gas fuelled city car to be mass produced. In 2013 it was the first car in its class to introduce an "autonomous city braking" function. And today it is the first city car to display the Waze name and integrating the functions of the app in its infotainment system.
An impressive list of achievements reflected by equally impressive commercial success, for a model which, together with Fiat 500, has been Europe's best-selling city car since 2003.
That leadership has been confirmed during the first four months of 2018, when Panda and Fiat 500 headed their segments in Europe with a market share of 29.1%. The car is the resounding first in Italy (with a market share of just under 40%) and Greece and in the first three places in Spain, Portugal and Austria.
Photos: Panda a Pandino 2018