Friday, August 1, 2014

Fiat 500L Knee Airbag Recall Announced

Fiat 500L Trekking

Chrysler Group LLC just announced the Fiat 500L will be recalled to replace the driver's knee airbag. According to the company, routine testing discovered the possibility that the driver's knee airbag may not deploy in the proper position if the driver is not wearing a seatbelt. The recall effects 2014 and 2015 Fiat 500L models sold in the US and Canada. Chrysler estimates 29,500 cars will be effected by this recall. The numbers break down to approximately 25,500 cars in the US and about 4,000 cars in Canada.

Fiat 500L Driver's Knee Airbag
The Fiat 500L driver's knee bag works well when you use it as intended while wearing a seatbelt.

It is important to remember this issue involves drivers who don't wear seatbelts, which is illegal in most if not all of the United States. Chrysler will notify Fiat 500L owners when they can schedule this free service and advises all vehicle occupants wear seatbelts. Owners that are concerned may call Chrysler Group’s Customer Information Center at 1-800-853-1403.

Source: Chrysler Group LLC

Fiat 500L Small Overlap Crash

Fiat 500L Trekking

The Fiat 500L, a 2013 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick, recently underwent the institutes new small overlap crash test. The Fiat 500L scored a surprising poor rating in this severe test. While this is a disappointing result, it should be noted that this is the first time the Fiat 500L has earned anything less than the highest rating in a crash test. Since its introduction in 2012, the Fiat 500L has been collecting excellent crash ratings in both Europe and America, actually earning the Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS in 2013.

The 2013 IIHS crash test series simulated a 40 MPH front moderate-overlap impact, a 31 MPH side impact, a roof-crush consistent with a rollover, and a 20 MPH rear collision capable of causing a whiplash injury. The Fiat 500L achieved the highest possible ratings of good in each of these tests and was awarded the Institutes 2013 Top Safety Pick award.

The Fiat 500L underwent the IIHS moderate overlap crash test last year and earned top safety scores.


Fiat 500L 2013 IIHS Crashworthiness Ratings

Moderate overlap front: Good
Roof strength: Good
Head restraints and seats: Good
Side impact: Good

NHTSA Full Width Front Impact Test
In the National Highway and Traffic Association (NHTSA) frontal tests, cars are crashed into a solid barrier at 35 mph, representing a head-on collision of two cars of similar size and weight each moving at 35 mph.

IIHS 40% Moderate Overlap Test
The 40 mph moderate overlap test performed by the IIHS severely tests the passenger compartment integrity in addition to the restraint system. An offset test is more demanding of a vehicle's structure than a full-width test, while a full-width test is more demanding of a vehicle's safety belts and airbags.¹

IIHS 25 %Small Overlap Test
Starting in 2012, the IIHS devised a 25 percent small overlap test that simulates the front corner hitting a car or an object like a tree or utility pole. This type of impact is extremely severe because it typically bypasses most of the energy absorbing sections of the car. The IIHS is the only agency in North America or Europe that runs this test.²

For 2014, the small overlap test is being added to the other tests the Institute already runs and the results will effect a car's ability to win the coveted Top Safety Pick award. The new small overlap test subjects only 25% of the front end of the vehicle to a 40 mph impact.

This test, which made its first appearance in 2012, is far more demanding on the vehicle structure than the 40% offset test that has been an industry standard since 1995. In the small overlap test, the main structures of the vehicle’s front-end crush zone are bypassed, making it far more difficult for the vehicle to manage crash energy. The occupant compartment can be compromised as a result.

The Fiat 500L undergoing the IIHS Small Overlap Crash Test.

Many car models are struggling through this new test. In fact, of the 32 cars tested so far, only 19 have achieved a good to acceptable score. The rest have received a poor rating. Cars like the Fiat 500L that were designed before the test are particularly vulnerable to not doing well.

Fiat 500L Small Offset Crash Test Results

Injury measures

Looking at how the Fiat 500L did in this test, you will notice the 500L actually achieved top marks in Head/Neck and Chest injury measures as well as acceptable ratings in Lower Leg/Foot and Restraint and Dummy Kinematics. The 500L was letdown by a poor injury rating in Hip/Thigh.

Head/neck: Good
Chest: Good
Hip/thigh: Poor
Lower leg/foot: Acceptable

Restraints and dummy kinematics: Acceptable

According to the IIHS:

"The dummy’s head contacted the frontal airbag but slid off the left side as the steering column moved 13 cm to the right, contributing to the head hitting the A-pillar. Head acceleration from the A-pillar hit was low, though. The side curtain airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. The side torso airbag also deployed."

Body Structure: Poor

Bypassing the 500L's main energy absorbing load paths resulted in the safety cage taking the brunt of the impact and allowed what was considered excessive body structure intrusion into the passenger compartment. This was measured at 24-28 cm at the upper hinge pillar/instrument panel and up to 25 cm at the lower hinge pillar. The steering column was also pushed back 14 cm toward the driver. This was rated a poor performance.

For perspective on what the above numbers mean, here are some measurements of other cars that received an overall poor rating in the small offset crash.

2014 Nissan Juke - Overall rating Poor
24-27 cm at the upper hinge pillar
37 cm at the lower hinge pillar
The steering column was pushed back 10 cm toward the driver

2014 Nissan Versa - Overall rating Poor
27-29 cm at the instrument panel
42 cm at the lower hinge pillar
The steering column was pushed back 10 cm toward the driver

2014 Mazda CX-9 - Overall rating Poor
44 cm at the upper hinge pillar
33-38 cm at the instrument panel
43 cm at the lower hinge pillar
25 cm at the parking brake pedal
The steering column was pushed back 12 cm toward the driver

2014 Mazda 5 - Overall rating Poor
34 cm at the upper hinge pillar
25-27 cm at the instrument panel
35 cm at the lower hinge pillar
The steering column was pushed back 15 cm toward the driver

2013 Honda Fit - Overall rating Poor
31 cm at the upper hinge pillar
34 cm at the lower hinge pillar
The steering column was pushed back 12 cm toward the driver

2014 Honda Pilot - Overall rating Poor
35 cm at lower hinge pillar
42 cm at the parking brake pedal
26-28 cm at upper the hinge pillar and instrument panel.
The steering column was pushed back 11 cm toward the driver.

2014 Kia Sorrento - Overall rating Poor
21 cm at the upper hinge pillar
18 cm at the instrument panel
27 cm at the lower hinge pillar
28 cm at the parking brake pedal
The steering column was pushed back 7 cm toward the driver

2014 Buick Encore - Overall rating Poor
31 cm at the upper hinge pillar
22-26 cm at the instrument panel
32 cm at the lower hinge pillar

Final Thoughts

As in any crash simulation, real world results will vary and crash ratings can only be compared to cars in the same category/weight/size. Taken as a whole, the Fiat 500L has achieved the highest crash test ratings in every test performed in Europe and in North America to date except this recent one.

With Fiat's history of bringing safety innovations to affordable transportation, and based on previous statements, one can expect the company to not only continue striving towards improving vehicle performance for third-party tests, but also in building safe cars that perform well in the real world.

Read more:

Sources and credits:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fiat 500L-Vans Design Concept Debuts!

Fiat 500L-Vans design concept

Fiat debuted their Fiat 500L-Vans design concept at the Vans US Open of Surfing over this past weekend. The Vans company made their name with athletic shoes and apparel so this special Fiat 500L features design elements inspired by classic Vans products and materials. Inside, Vans logos on the instrument panel with vintage palm-patterned canvas and Vans Waffle Soles on the pedals and in storage bins reminds one of the original Vans hi-top sneakers.

Fiat 500L-Vans Interior

Outside, Off-road LED daytime running lamps in an integrated brush guard and unique body cladding standout. The matte blue and gloss white two-tone paint is topped with a Vans checkerboard pattern, and Shoe sole waffle pattern accents for the grille, step pad and rear cladding carry on the Vans theme. A raised ride height along with 18 inch blacked out wheels gives the car a rugged appearance. A roof mounted double decker surf board carrier with basket complete the look.

Fiat 500L-Vans Concept

You can view the Fiat 500L-Vans design concept as well as the full Fiat model line up at the Vans US Open for Surfing event going on now and running through August 3rd at Huntington Beach, California. The event is free and open to the public and can be viewed daily on the live webcast at the Vans US Open of Surfing website.

Fiat 500L-Vans Dashboard

Fiat 500L-Vans Seats

Fiat 500L-Vans Waffle Pattern Pedals

Interior Features:
  • Vans Canvas Pattern fabric with white and blue leatherette and leather accents
  • Vintage Vans Logo Stickers through the years detail on instrument panel trim
  • Vans waffle pattern Sole Texture on rubber surfaces and pedals

Exterior Features:
  • Unique Vans Checker roof
  • Matte and gloss paint with gloss black accents
  • Off-road LED daytime running lamps in integrated brush guard
  • Unique cladding with pronounced fenders
  • Roof rack with basket and surf board double decker
  • Shoe sole waffle pattern accents (grille, step pad and rear cladding)
  • 18” wheels with higher ground clearance and wider track

Read More:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fiat at US Open of Surfing

Fiat 500 Watercrafts

Fiat is making a big splash this weekend at the Vans US Open of Surfing. Starting July 26 and running through August 3 in Huntington Beach, California, the Vans US Open of Surfing is the largest surfing competition in the world. This year, Fiat will be pulling out the stops with a beach display showing off its full model range, including the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio, 500L Trekking, and the all-electric Fiat 500e. Fiat will also debut a special Fiat 500L design concept inspired by the Vans clothing and accessories brand.

Fiat Water Ski

This is the second year in a row that Fiat has partnered with the Vans US Open. The event is expected to draw 500,000 spectators.

Jason Stoicevich, Head of Fiat brand North America explains why teaming up with the US Open of Surfing is a good fit for the brand:

“Last year’s Vans US Open of Surfing gave us the opportunity to be a part of an event that matches the spirit and playfulness of the FIAT brand. As we continue to launch new products, including the all-new automatic Fiat 500 Abarth, the US Open of Surfing remains a great platform to showcase the depth of our portfolio and interact with the young audience attending this event.”

Fiat 500 Watercrafts Cruising

In addition to the land display, Fiat will bring back its Fiat 500 watercrafts that debuted at the event last year. Professional surfer Brianna Cope will be on hand to sign autographs and there will be plenty of giveaways, including Wayfarer sunglasses, branded shoelaces, and other FIAT-branded items available. The event is free and open to the public and can be viewed daily on the live webcast at the Vans US Open of Surfing website.

Brianna Cope

Read more:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fiat and Renault Team Up for New Vehicle

Fiat Scudo Commercial Van

Fiat and Renault have signed an agreement to produce a new commercial vehicle to be manufactured at a Renault factory in France. The vehicle will be the replacement for the Fiat Scudo, a medium duty commercial van that Fiat had produced in a joint venture with France's Peugeot. Fiat and Peugeot had cooperated on the Scudo for the past 20 years, but that will end when its replacement arrives in 2016. The new Fiat commercial van will feature distinctive Fiat Professional design elements and be based on a Renault platform. Production will begin during the second quarter of 2016 at the French company's Sandouville plant.

Fiat Scudo Passenger Van

The Fiat Scudo is smaller than the Fiat Ducato (Ram ProMaster in the North America) and comes in either a cargo or passenger van configuration.


The Fiat Ducato and Iveco Daily being considered for the USA...

Friday, July 18, 2014

2014 Fiat FreakOut Recap

2014 Fiat FreakOut

The Fiat Club America held their annual Fiat FreakOut national convention last weekend and the highly anticipated event was another roaring success. It was the 31st year for the Fiat FreakOut and the event was held in the Chicago area for the first time. Fiat owners and fans from all around North America enjoyed four days filled with fun activities and friendly people. There were plenty of new and vintage Fiats on hand to entertain.

2014 Fiat FreakOut Show

The Fiat FreakOut is always chock full with things to do and this year's event kicked off with some kart racing. A poker run to the Volo Auto Museum and a late night cruise around Chicago were memorable. One of the key things about the Fiat FreakOut is socializing with fellow Fiat owners and the FreakOut's cocktail parties, lunches and dinners are a relaxed way to meet new people. Wandering the parking lot and seeing rare Fiats and talking with friendly owners is a popular Fiat FreakOut pastime. Vendors, movies and raffle prizes also added to the enjoyment and things to do.

1976 Lancia Scorpion at FreakOut

The highlight of the event is the concours auto show held on Saturday. This year, some early rain in the day failed to dampen the mood and the show field was full of some of the best examples of vintage, rare and significant Fiat Group cars.

Fiat USA was a major sponsor and sent a street team with the Fiat 500L to display. Nicole Longhini, Brand Manager for Fiat North America, was there for the second year in a row and gave a presentation on Fiat marketing that included the Funny or Die comedy video "Neighbors."

The 2015 Fiat FreakOut is already in the works, so make plans next year this time to attend. We'll have info on the 2015 Fiat FreakOut as soon as it is available, so keep an eye here on the blog. Don't forget to visit the Fiat Club America website and join the largest Fiat club in America!

More on the Fiat FreakOut:

Fiat 500 at 2014 Fiat FreakOut

Images: Thanks to the following for sharing their Fiat FreakOut experience: aevansgatech, Thad, Abarth67, Fiat Club America