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Monday, June 29, 2009

The Fiat 500 Abarth will be sold in the USA!!

Great news for car enthusiasts in America. There are reports on the Internet that the Fiat 500 Abarth will be sold in the USA! According to Fiat designer Roberto Giolito, there will be four versions of the Fiat 500 sold here in America. The four are: the standard Fiat 500 , the convertible 500C, the 500 Abarth and the yet to be released station wagon 500 Giardiniera. There is a possibility of a fifth version, an all wheel drive model, also coming out.

On another note, we are still awaiting confirmation in which factory the Fiat 500 will be assembled at. An announcement is suppose to come today Monday, June 29. The consensus is that it will be in Toluco, Mexico. However, an American plant in Illinois has also been mentioned. We'll update you when we hear more news!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Weekend decision: Where to make the Fiat 500...

Luca Montezemolo, president Fiat Group, Sergio Marchionne, CEO Fiat Group, and Luca De Meo, CEO Alfa Romeo Automobiles, at the premier of the Alfa Romeo MiTo

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne (who is also Chrysler's new CEO) will be deciding in which Chrysler plant to produce the Fiat 500. It's been widely reported the Fiat 500 will be produced at the Toluca, Mexico plant, but we'll know for sure after this weekend.

It's also been reported that the Fiat 500 will be the only Fiat product sold here (more than likely without the Fiat badge on it). The Fiat Group branded cars that will be sold here will be Alfa Romeo with the Fiat 500 sold as the "500" similar to the way BMW markets the Mini through BMW dealers without branding the cars BMW.

Alfa Romeo will redesign it's upcoming vehicles to take advantage of any platform sharing with Chrysler. For example, Chrysler has the Chrysler 300 platform which is rear wheel drive and that interests Alfa Romeo as they currently do not have a rear wheel drive platform to compete in the luxury midsize segment. Rear wheel drive is a strong selling point in that segment and platform sharing will save Alfa a considerable amount of investment.

In addition to which Chrysler plant the Fiat 500 will be produced, the other decision we might here about is which Alfa Romeos will be coming.

Stay tuned this Monday for the latest on the Fiat 500 journey to the USA!

Sources: Internet, Detroit Free Press

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Fiat 500 vs The Mini...

Here's a neat video from the UK's Ffith Gear car show. This compare's the Fiat 500 to the Mini. Check out the results...

Monday, June 22, 2009

The New Fiat 500: Size and Safety (part 1)

Fiat takes safety very seriously. In the new Fiat 500, their goal was safety at all cost, with no impact on pricing.
In this first part of a two part posting, we'll discuss the assumption that small cars can't be safe. In the second posting, we'll discuss how the Fiat 500 achieved its high safety ratings.

There's been a lot of misinformation in the media geared towards scaring people about small car safety. Rather than relying on media people with ulterior motives and questionable automotive knowledge, let's read what real experts have to say about small car safety.

Just because a car is small doesn't mean it can't be safe. The thought and care given to its design and construction makes a difference.


Euro NCAP, the organization that assesses the safety of new cars in Europe, has extensive experience safety testing cars of all sizes. They have concluded that it is not only larger or expensive cars that can achieve impressive results in safety.

Recently, they released the results of six new cars and stated in a press release "Five out of the six cars received Euro NCAP’s maximum five star award. Euro NCAP is pleased to note that a number of less expensive cars were among these high performers. In these economically challenging times, consumers who wish to downsize their cars can still place safety at the top of their wish list".

Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP says "Many claim that the weight and size of a car is the only criteria for safety. We believe that there are other aspects of safety that are just as important. The smaller cars we that size should not stand in the way of all-round safety".

Fiat 500 Euro NCAP test results = 5 Stars

Fiat 500 crash test video

In their testing of the Fiat 500, NCAP released this statement "The iconic Fiat 500, Euro NCAP is pleased to announce, received five stars in adult occupant protection with an overall score of 35 points, revealing that Fiat has not compromised safety, even when compromising the car’s size."

Designed to respect the highest standards, the Fiat 500 is one of the safest cars in its entire segment. The Fiat 500 can be fitted with up to 7 airbags as standard equipment (two at the front, two curtain-bags, two sidebags and one to protect the knees): a record for this vehicle class. The Fiat 500 is 139.6 inches long and weighs 2050 lbs.

Fiat 500 drivers seat crash picture. Compare door opening
and condition of crash dummy to the other vehicles shown below.

Notes from NCAP Front impact test on the Fiat 500:

"The passenger compartment remained stable during the impact. The driver's knees were well protected by an airbag. Fiat showed that the airbag would also protect larger and smaller occupants and those sat in different seating positions. There were no structures in the dashboard that presented a risk of injury to the passenger's knees and femurs".

Assuming Size

Assuming size is the most important factor determining the safety of a vehicle is a popular notion in the United States where the phrase "bigger is better" sums up all things automotive wise. Below we'll show a few examples of popular larger vehicles that have have poor crash tests. These are from large manufacturers who don't really have an excuse for the poor performances other than they put profit over safety.

Before we look at the results a couple of points. First these are European versions that differ somewhat from US vehicles. Some are also right hand drive. The other point is that you can't accurately compare vehicles from different size classes and infer one will do better than the other in a real world crash. These examples are given to show that vehicle size doesn't guarantee a safer car.

Ford Ranger = 2 stars

The first example is from Ford. It's the popular Ford Ranger pick up. A vehicle that, because it's 203.54 inches long and 4067 lbs, people assume is safe. Note how the A pillar (front windshield pillar) collapses. Indeed the whole passenger compartment is compromised.

Ford Ranger crash test video
Notes from NCAP Front impact test on the Ford Ranger: "The Ranger did not achieve the minimum number of points in this test to get a three star rating, even though it scored enough points overall. The impact overloaded the structure and the passenger compartment became unstable. The car was penalized for that and for the following: collapse of the A-pillar and the extent of rearward movement of the steering wheel; the risk posed to the driver's lower legs by upward movement of the brake pedal; rupture of the footwell and rearward displacement of the pedals, which exceeded 400mm. There was insufficient pressure in the airbag to prevent the head from contacting the steering wheel."
Ford Ranger drivers seat crash picture. Compare to
the Fiat 500, the deformation of the door opening
and how far the door is open.
"Protection of the driver's chest was rated as weak, mainly due to the threat posed by the extent of structural collapse. Values from the left knee of the driver dummy indicated a high risk of injury and protection was rated as poor. Deformation of the footwell and movement of the pedals resulted in poor protection of the driver's lower legs, feet and ankles." Nissan Frontier = .5 stars The next vehicle is the Nissan Frontier. Again, a popular vehicle that weighs 4488lbs and is 205.51 inches long.
Nissan Frontier (Navara) crash test video
Notes from NCAP Front impact test on the Nissan Frontier (Navara in Europe): "The Navara achieved an extremely poor rating of a one star strike through ".
Nissan Frontier drivers seat crash picture. Again, compare to the Fiat 500,
The deformation of the door opening and how far the door is open.
"The Navara's passenger compartment became unstable in the impact and would have been unable to withstand greater loading. The chassis rail collapsed on the impacted side, allowing a significant level of intrusion into the driver's footwell. As a result, the dummy readings indicated a high risk of injury to the left tibia". "In addition, the accelerator pedal moved rearwards more than 200mm, presenting a further risk of injury to the driver's lower legs. Structures in the dashboard presented a hazard to the knees and femurs of both the driver and the passenger. Protection of the driver's chest was rated as weak owing to the extent to which the chest was compressed, combined with the threat posed by the unstable passenger compartment. The passenger's neck was bent rearwards in the impact, presenting a high risk of life-threatening injury. The airbags and seatbelt pretensioners were triggered late in the impact and readings from the driver dummy's head also indicated a high risk of life threatening injury". "The Navara has been awarded a one star rating as its performance in frontal impact did not reach the minimum level required for a higher rating. Moreover, the unacceptably high risk of life threatening injury to the driver's head and the passenger's neck have led to that star being struck through". "Nissan have already introduced a counter-measure to overcome the delayed deployment of the frontal airbags. The change has already been introduced in production cars and Nissan will contact owners to advise them to get their cars upgraded at their dealers. Euro NCAP will assess the modified car in the near future". A comparable car: Chevrolet Aveo = 1.5 stars Here's a more comparable car to the Fiat even though it is 30 inches longer at 169 inches and heavier by 546lbs or 2597 lbs. I'd like to make a comment about this car. This is a typical small car marketed in the United States by GM. It's not a terrible car, but it's a lack luster design and has inexcusable deficiencies in safety engineering from the largest carmaker in the world. When an American thinks of a small car, it's the kind of car that pops up in their mind. It's no wonder Americans traditionally have negative opinions on small cars. However, small cars like this are not in the same league as the Fiat. If you want to know why GM went bankrupt, look no further than cars like this.
Chevrolet Aveo crash test video
Notes from NCAP Front impact test on the Chevrolet Aveo: "Structural deformation and spot-weld release indicated that the bodyshell had been overloaded and had become unstable. Rearward movement of the A-pillar was penalized. Movement of the steering-wheel presented a hazard to the driver's head".
Chevrolet Aveo drivers seat crash picture. Notice that the
passenger compartment is buckled.
"The driver's chest made contact with the steering-wheel, distorting the rim. Compression of the driver's chest indicated an unacceptably high risk of life-threatening injury. As a result, the final star of the adult occupant rating is struck through. Structures in the dashboard represented a potential hazard to the knees and femurs of the driver and passenger. No points were awarded for the protection offered to the feet and ankles." As we see above, don't assume size is everything when it comes to safety engineering. For years many domestic manufacturers have relied on these simplistic automotive myths to sell their products and have neglected honest to goodness, real nut and bolt engineering to solve safety challenges. Now time has caught up with them. With the arrival of the Fiat 500, Americans are about to discover something Europeans have know for years, safety can come in small packages and when it does, it's usually inside a Fiat. Keep an eye out for the second part of this story where we'll talk about how the Fiat 500 achieved its high safety rating. Click here to go the the second part of this story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fiat Chrysler deal FINALIZED

The deal is finally done. Here is the official Fiat Press release.


Robert Kidder to be named Chairman of U.S. Automaker;
Sergio Marchionne to Serve as Chief Executive Officer

Auburn Hills, MI and Turin, ITALY – June 10, 2009 – Chrysler Group LLC and Fiat Group announced today that they have finalized their previously announced global strategic alliance, forming a "new" Chrysler that has the resources, technology and worldwide distribution network required to compete effectively on a global scale. The new Chrysler will begin operations immediately.

As part of the alliance, Fiat will contribute to Chrysler its world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-sized cars, allowing the company to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles increasingly in demand by consumers. Chrysler will also benefit from Fiat’s management expertise in business turnaround and access to Fiat’s international distribution network with particular focus on Latin America and Russia.

"This is a very significant day, not only for Chrysler and its dedicated employees, who have persevered through a great deal of uncertainty during the past year, but for the global automotive industry as a whole," said Sergio Marchionne, who today was named Chief Executive Officer of Chrysler Group LLC. "From the very beginning, we have been adamant that this alliance must be a constructive and important step towards solving the problems impacting our industry. We, now look forward to establishing a new paradigm for how automotive companies can operate profitably going forward.

Mr. Marchionne continued: "We intend to build on Chrysler’s culture of innovation and Fiat’s complementary technology and expertise to expand Chrysler's product portfolio both in North America and overseas. Those Chrysler operations assumed by the new company that were idled during this process have or will soon be back up and running, and work is already underway on developing new environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient, high-quality vehicles that we intend to become Chrysler's hallmark going forward.

"The same attributes that first attracted us to this alliance – a global automotive company with first-class technology, a devoted workforce, improved efficiency, a strong, global distribution network and an unyielding passion for building great cars that consumers want – are even more true today. While it does not solve every issue faced by the automotive industry today, this alliance, established with the full support of President Obama's Administration, is a very significant step toward positioning Fiat and Chrysler to be leaders among the next breed of global automakers. This has, I know, been a difficult process for everyone involved, but we are ready to prove to the American consumer that Chrysler can once again be a strong, competitive company that produces a full portfolio of reliable vehicles that capture the imagination and inspire loyalty," Mr. Marchionne said.

Under the terms approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York and various regulatory and antitrust regulators, the company formerly known as Chrysler LLC today formally sold substantially all of its assets, without certain debts and liabilities, to a new company that will operate as Chrysler Group LLC.

Chrysler Group in turn issued to a subsidiary of Fiat a 20% equity interest on a fully diluted basis in the new company. Fiat has also entered into a series of agreements necessary to transfer certain technology, platforms and powertrains to the new Chrysler. Fiat’s equity interest will increase in increments by up to a total of 35% in the event that certain milestones mandated by the agreement are achieved, but Fiat cannot obtain a majority stake in Chrysler until all taxpayer funds are repaid.

Similarly, the United Auto Workers’ Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, a voluntary employees’ beneficiary association trust (VEBA) has been issued an equity interest in Chrysler Group equal to 55% on a fully diluted basis. The U.S. Treasury and the Canadian Government have been issued an equity interest equal to 8% and 2% on a fully diluted basis, respectively. These interests reflect the anticipated share dilution as a result of Fiat’s incremental equity assumption once the milestones outlined in the strategic alliance agreement are achieved.

In addition to Mr. Marchionne, currently the Chief Executive Officer of Fiat S.p.A. serving as CEO, the new Chrysler will be managed by a nine-member Board of Directors, consisting of 3 directors to be appointed by Fiat, 4 directors to be appointed by the U.S. Government, 1 director to be appointed by the Canadian Government and 1 director to be appointed by the United Auto Workers’ Retiree Medical Benefits Trust. The Board is expected to name Robert Kidder as Chairman. The process of determining additional board members is continuing and updates will be announced as appropriate.

As previously announced, Chrysler has entered into an agreement with GMAC Financial Services to provide automotive financing products and services to the Company’s North American (NAFTA) dealers and customers. GMAC Financial Services will be the preferred lender in North America for Chrysler, Jeep® and Dodge dealer and consumer business, including wholesale of new and used vehicles as well as retail.

The Fiat 500 wins top spot in Green Awards 2009

Fiat 500 Start&Stop

Two years after its introduction in 2007 the Fiat 500 keeps winning awards. This time it is the top award for superminis in the UK's "What Car? Green Awards 2009.

The award not only recognizes the most economical and environmentally friendly cars on sale in the UK but also a green car that is fun to drive, easy to own and practical for every day use.

The Fiat 500 Stop Start won the award for the best green car supermini.

The Start&Stop is an option on the Fiat 500, which gives the popular city car even better fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures.

The new technology is based on the most successful 500 version – the 1.2 Lounge – and benefits from the combined expertise of automotive parts specialist Bosch and Fiat Powertrain Technologies.

Fiat 500 Dualogic

The Start&Stop system stops the engine automatically (without the driver turning an ignition key) whenever traffic conditions bring the car to a complete halt, and restarts it when the driver wants to move off again.

Fiat 500 Blue&Me

Fiat’s Blue&Me hands-free telecommunications and entertainment system is standard on 500 Start&Stop, which means the car also benefits from eco:Drive, the system that allows customers to monitor and improve on their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption figures.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fiat confirms: The Fiat 500 is coming to the USA

The vice president of Fiat communications in Italy, Richard Gadeselli, has confirmed the Fiat 500 is coming to the USA. The time frame is about 18 months and the cars will be sold through Chrysler dealers. Gadeselli is quoted in Automotive News saying..."The Fiat 500 -- we see that, like the Mini, as a sort of boutique car that we think we can sell in good numbers on the East and West coasts in the same way that Mini has been successful in the U.S."

He also states the the Fiat 500 will be the only model badged as a Fiat product. There are reported to be six other cars Chrysler will introduce based on Fiat models. What Fiat will do is to provide chassis and Chrysler will design their own cars around them.

"There is a misconception out there that Chrysler is going to build the Fiat Bravo, just stick a different badge on it. They will be Chrysler products. They will be specific to Chrysler. The vehicle architectures will be based on our stuff, and there will be some powertrains. The vehicles will be U.S. vehicles, designed for U.S. customers by a U.S. company."

So it's official, 18 months. Mark your calender!!