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Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Fiat500USA! visitors over the first year

Fiat500USA is one year old today! This site is growing exponentially as more and more people in the US are discovering the Fiat 500. With that, I want to thank everyone who has stopped by for making this blog the most popular American based Fiat 500 site on the internet.

I started this site a year ago with the anticipation that Fiat would finally come back to the USA. What started out as a rumor, and eventually became a reality, we watched throughout 2009, all the ins and outs of the Fiat/Chrysler alliance and finally the official announcement that the 500 would indeed be sold. This site is dedicated to providing interesting, and exploring the latest, information about the Fiat 500 and also the Fiat company. Thanks for sticking around...

And now, some news...

Getting back to the point of this blog;)...The latest news on the Fiat 500 is training of dealership personnel will start sometime around June with the car scheduled to show up at the dealers Dec 2010! The current roll out plans are for select dealers throughout the country, located in key metro areas, to market the 500. There will be specific interior showroom branded salons with dedicated sales and management staff.

And entertainment...

Below are some random videos on the 500 for your enjoyment.

Fifth Gear's roadtest on the Fiat 500

Cool Roadtest from Drivers Republic on the Fiat 500 Abarth

A great sounding exhaust from G-Tech for the Fiat 500 Abarth

Fiat 500 Abarth Esseesse commercial

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fiat 500 Interior Accommodations

Fiat 500 accommodations

The Fiat 500 can accommodate, at the same time, a driver of the 90 percentile (about 6'1") and a rear passenger of the 70 percentile (about 5'9") comfortably, within a space of only 139 inches (3.5 meters). Drivers of up to 6'6" have reported being comfortable in the 500. Fiat achieved this by drawing upon its 70 years of advanced small car design.

Fiat 500 Driver Seat Dimensions

The drivers seat of the Fiat 500 has 38.8 inches (985mm) of headroom and 40.7 inches (1035mm) of legroom.

Fiat 500 Rear Seat Dimensions

The rear seat of the Fiat 500 has 35.6 inches (904mm) of headroom and 32.2 inches (818mm) of legroom.

Fiat 500 Rear Seat H-Point

Using virtual reality in the design phase of the 500 helped Fiat solve many problems that could have added months to development time. An example is in the rear seat area. Fiat wanted to lower the hip point (H point) of the rear passenger to boost headroom, but there were problems. First was the risk that the foam of the seat cushion would be too thin, and second, that the passenger would be uncomfortably aware of the metal structure of the floor on every bump.

Two types of calculation showed that a solution to the problem did exist. One determined that an increase in the ‘bearing capacity’ of the cushion foam could absorb vertical acceleration in less space. The other was a computation of the structural rigidity of the body shell showed that the size of the rear crossbeam could be reduced. These solutions, together with a refinement to the last millimeter of the tailgate hinges and the space necessary for the tailgate to open, were able to guarantee the required amount of headroom.

Previously, solving a problem such as this would have required prototype work adding time to the development process. Using virtual reality design is one of the reasons Fiat is able to bring completed car designs to market in about 18 months time. This is exactly what is going on at Chrysler today.

Fiat 500 Legroom vs Wheelbase

The legroom versus wheelbase point to the exceptional use of space within the Fiat 500.

Fiat 500 Wheel vs Gas Pedal

The relationship between the wheel center and the gas pedal, as depicted here, illustrates the space utilization within the Fiat 500. More space within the wheel base is devoted to actual passenger use.

The Fiat 128

The roominess of the Fiat 500 is the result of the evolution of Fiat's small car design philosophy. This philosophy began in 1936, when famed Fiat designer, Dante Giacosa, pioneered modern small car design with the Fiat Topolino. Giacosa created the concept of designing the car from the inside out. Starting with allocating passenger and luggage space, then room for the mechanical components. Before then, small cars were just big cars scaled down. You can read more about Giacosa here.

Fiat 128 ad clip from 1973. Space utilization is a Fiat expertise.

This concept was carried to the extreme, in 1969, with Giacosa's Fiat 128. This car set the standard (and pattern) for all modern front wheel drive cars. A full 80 percent of the car's space was devoted to the passengers and luggage. This car was advertised as being shorter than a VW Beetle but having more legroom than a Cadillac Eldorado.

1978 Lancia Megagamma Lancia Megagamma

Fiat's small car design philosophy underwent further advancement, with the help of legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design. During the 70's, Giugiaro was the first to introduce the concept of a more compact and taller vehicle. He concluded that to fit passengers and luggage within a given four meters length, the height of the vehicle would have to be increased. Sitting more upright allows the passengers to sit at a more comfortable angle and not have the legs bent which can result in pressure points on the body, leading to fatigue and discomfort. The above 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept car was the first car to use this concept and has influenced small car design since.

This evolving design philosophy has been applied to the 500 and helps it achieve its excellent space utilization and comfort. In particular, the taller driver is rewarded with a very roomy cabin as is illustrated below.
Fiat 500 Driver Access

Taller drivers have special needs that were looked after as can be determined in this view. Stooping and bending over makes for uncomfortable entry and exit of a vehicle. Notice how this driver, in the 95 percentile (approx 6'2.5"), remains upright, his back being relatively straight as he enters the car. Once in, the door handle is easily reached.

Fiat 500 Driver Seated

Our 95 percentile driver is comfortably seated and is able to sit without his head touching the roof.

Fiat 500 Driver Shifter Reach

Our tall driver, again, notice how his arm is at a relaxed angle. He is not cramped, has a commanding view, and all controls are within reach but not on top of him. It's one of the reasons 6'6" Jeremy Clarkson enjoys the Fiat 500.

Fiat 500 Hazard Switch Reach

The reach to the controls have been carefully figured, The arm is outstretched, but at a natural angle. In the insert notice how one can see the A) speedo/tach, B) stereo, C) dash switches, all in that one view, the heater panel is visible by moving ones eyes down and doesn't require head movement.

Fiat 500 Sunroof Reach

The tall driver has an easy reach to his or hers controls. This is the sunroof...

Fiat 500 Mirror Switch Reach

power mirror switch...

Fiat 500 Field of View

The Fiat 500 offers good driver visibility. The more upright seating position helps drivers see what is in front of them closer, which comes in handy in urban environments and also helps the psychological feeling of being in control.

Fiat 500 Field of View Right

Right turn visibility was also looked after and is good.

Fiat 500 Field of View Left

Drivers visibility making a left turn.

Fiat 500 Luggage Capacity

Luggage room with the seats upright is roomy considering the size of the Fiat 500. It is deep and wide, with every inch available.

Fiat 500 Luggage Floor

The luggage floor length is longer than its competitors, even though the 500 is shorter.

Fiat 500 Luggage Volume

A practical illustration of the luggage capacity. The suitcases can be stowed flat.

Fiat 500 Trunk Length
Again, with the seats folded, the luggage floor length is longer than its competitors.

Fiat 500 Seats Folded

The cargo space when the rear seats are folded down is outstanding, as illustrated here.

You can view the video these slides were taken from here.

With help from Fiat Group Press
Photos courtesy Fiat Group Press, Ital Design
References: Ital Design

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fiat's 2009 sales: The best performance by any of Europe's big car makers

Fiat Group closed out 2009 selling 1,254,829 cars, up 6.3 percent from 2008. This is despite the overall market being down 1.6 percent. Their command of the European market rose to 8.7 percent, up .7 percent from last year. This was the best performance by any of Europe's big car makers.

By contrast, sales by France's Renault SA were up only 3.9 percent and Volkswagen AG — Europe's biggest car maker — were up just 0.7 percent.

All Fiat Group car divisions posted gains over last year except for the luxury sports car division Ferrari/Maserati, which saw a slight decline. This slight decline is amazing in light of the global economic crisis.

Below is the breakdown for each division's sales:

Fiat 1,016,340 units: up 6.1 percent

Lancia 121,549 units: up 6.6 percent

Alfa Romeo 110,545 units: up 8.1 percent

Ferrari/Maserati 6,395 units: down .3 percent

This performance by the Fiat Group this past year, under the adept leadership of Sergio Marchionne, gives us some hope for Chrysler in 2010.

Photos used with permission of Fiat Group

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Marchionne Interview at Detroit Auto Show

Here's a interesting, short interview of Sergio Marchionne at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday, Jan 11 2010. In the interview he discusses how Chrysler is doing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The US Fiat 500 Abarth...How much horsepower? Try 170hp!

Chrysler has just released their specifications on the 1.4L MultiAir engine that will equip the Fiat 500 Abarth. The 1.4L MultiAir Turbo will be rated at 170hp*, that's up from the standard European spec'd version with 135hp and even up from the optional Esseesse version with 160hp.

The US version 1.4-liter FIRE Turbo with Multiair*
170 horsepower (128 kW) @ 6750 rpm
170 lb.-ft. (231 Nm) of torque @ 3000 rpm

That power output, 2.04hp/cu in (124 hp/litre), puts the 1.4L MultiAir Turbo engine as having one of the highest specific power values in the world!

Previously, I speculated that the original Abarth's 135hp wouldn't be sufficient for the US market, based on its competitors (you can read more about that here). I thought a 3 cylinder SGE engine with 157hp or, better yet, the 170hp unit from the Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde would be more like it. Well it looks like the Quadrifoglio engine specs won out.

The 1.4 Turbo MultiAir going into the 500 Abarth is basically the same engine used in the MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde, except for some packaging and tuning details. The Quadrifoglio Verde does put out more torque:

Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde
170 horsepower (128kW) @5500rpm
170 lb.-ft (230Nm) of torque @ 2500 rpm in normal mode
184 lb.-ft (250Nm) of torque @ 2500 rpm in sport mode

Garrett GT 1446 fixed geometry turbo

The Quadrifoglio Verde will have a new, heavy duty 6 speed transmission called the C635, that can cope with the increase in torque. Currently the 500 Abarth has a heavy duty 5 speed C510 transmission. Could we in the US get the 6 speed from the larger Quadrifoglio Verde? That would be great, but that's a story for another day...

This is good news for us who are waiting patiently for the Abarth version, which is currently expected fourth quarter 2011/beginning 2012.

Below is a list of engine specs from the current 500 Abarth lineup available in Europe:

Standard Fiat 500 Abarth

1.4-liter FIRE with IHI RHF3-P fixed geometry Turbo
135 horsepower (99 kW) @ 6,750 rpm
152 lb.-ft (206Nm) of torque @ 3,000 rpm (132 lb.-ft / 180Nm @2500 rpm Normal mode)

Fiat 500 Abarth with Esseesse kit

1.4-liter FIRE with IHI RHF3 fixed-geometry turbo
160 horsepower (117 kW) @ 5,750 rpm
169 lb.-ft (152 lb.-ft /230Nm in Normal Boost mode) of torque @ 3,000 rpm

Fiat 500 Abarth "Assetto Corse" Race Car

1.4-liter Fire Turbo upgraded with Garrett GT 1446 fixed geometry turbo
190 horsepower (140 kW) @ 6,500 rpm
221 lb.-ft. (300Nm) of torque @ 3,000 rpm

Abarth 695 "Tributo Ferrari"

1.4-liter Fire Turbo upgraded with Garrett GT 1446 fixed geometry turbo
over 180 horsepower (132 kW) @ 5,750 rpm
170 lb.-ft. (230Nm) of torque @ 3,000 rpm

Abarth 500R3T Rally Car

1.4-liter Fire Turbo upgraded with Garrett GT 1446a fixed geometry turbo w/29mm intake restrictor
over 180 horsepower (132kW) @ 5,750 rpm
221 lb.-ft. (300Nm) of torque @ 3,000 rpm

Below is the official Chrysler press release:

New Four-cylinder Engines

Four-cylinder engine options are being expanded at Chrysler Group with the introduction of Fiat Powertrain's 1.4-liter, in-line four-cylinder Fully Integrated Robotized Engine (FIRE) featuring Multiair. In the early 1970s, the use of robotics in assembly plants was not common. The term “FIRE” came into existence when Fiat integrated the use of robotics in the production process of manufacturing plants. Although mechanized assembly is common today, the brand name FIRE has remained with Fiat’s powertrain lineup.

1.4-liter 16V FIRE Turbo

Two variations of the engine will be available, naturally aspirated and turbo. Both versions of the 1.4-liter FIRE feature four valves per cylinder and incorporate state-of-the-art technology for Fully Variable-valve Actuation (FVVA), also known as Multiair. Fiat’s Multiair technology significantly reduces emissions, while improving fuel economy and power. This sophisticated electro-hydraulic variable-valve actuation technology delivers an increase in power up to 10 percent, an improvement in low rpm torque up to 15 percent and a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions up to 10 percent when compared with similar engines without the technology. The Multiair system is based on a series of Fiat Powertrain patents related to hardware, combustion strategies and controls that allow for full control of the lift and timing of engine valves, independently on each cylinder and during each single engine stroke. Well suited for a small car application, the first North American vehicle to feature the 1.4-liter FIRE with Multiair is the Fiat 500.


1.4-liter I-4 FIRE with Multiair
100 horsepower (75 kW) at 6,750 rpm
95 lb.-ft. (129 N•m) of torque at 4,250 rpm

1.4-liter I-4 FIRE Turbo with Multiair
170 horsepower (128 kW) at 6,750 rpm
170 lb.-ft. (231 N•m) of torque at 3,000 rpm
Press release courtesy Chrysler Media
*Update: This story is from January 2010, nearly two years before the 500 Abarth's November 2011 introduction. The final production specifications for the 1.4L MultiAir Turbo are:
160 bhp (119 kW) @ 5,500 rpm (117 bhp/L)
150 lb.-ft. (203 N•m) @ 1,800-6,100 rpm Normal mode
170 lb.-ft. (230 N•m) @ 2,500-4,000 rpm Sport mode
Garrett GT 1446 fixed geometry turbo
Maximum Turbo Boost approx (psi / bar) 18 psi / 1.24 bar
This 160hp rating raises some controversy. Some say the engine may have been detuned to 160hp in an effort to not "one up" the European Abarth 500 esseesse's top horsepower figure of 160hp. There has also been some speculation that the 500 Abarth's engine is in actuality producing more power, and the 160hp figure is deliberately understated for the the same reason. This notion has been fueled by independent dynamometer test readings of the 500 Abarth once they are in owner's hands. What do you think?


Monday, January 11, 2010

The Fiat 500 BEV on display at the North American International Auto Show

At the North American International Auto Show Chrysler displayed an fully electric version of the Fiat 500 called the 500 BEV . The 500 BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle)is powered by an electric motor and a battery that can be charged using a common household plug. It does not have a gas engine. Under all conditions, it drives using electricity. The 500 BEV can travel up to 200 miles between charges. (beating the Nissan Leaf, also displayed at the Detroit Show).

The 500 BEV uses the interior and body kit from the 500 Abarth, with the rear valance treatment particularly interesting to an Abarth connoisseur.

The Fiat 500 BEV features all electric power

The Fiat 500BEV interior is nearly identical to the 500 Abarth

Transmission control similar to the MTA trans used in the 695 Abarth "Tributo Ferrari"

Hey, where are the tailpipes?

The above is the powertrain of the Fiat 500 Hybrid that Fiat has been developing in Italy. Fiat has been working a new hybrid power system that will power the new Fiat Topolino super mini and the 500 for a while now. I reported on this last April here. The technology works with the 900cc twin turbo SGE (Small Gasoline Engine) gas engine coupled to a new Dual Clutch automatic transmission that has an integral electric motor with next generation lithium-ion battery technology. It is a light, compact system that fits well with cars of reduced size.
The 500 BEV is a very preliminary concept, but the above Fiat Hybrid is much further developed. I would think the Fiat Hybrid system would make its appearance before we see the electric only BEV. We'll have to keep an eye on these technologies as time goes on.
Photos courtesy Chrysler Media and Fiat Group Auto

Monday, January 4, 2010

Inside the new Fiat 500...

The Fiat 500 interior is a well thought out place to be. Although the 500 is smaller outside than the Mini, inside it is roomier. This is due to some very careful design and engineering.

I've had the chance to check out a Chrysler evaluation vehicle, and let me tell you, the interior was fantastic. The Frau leather interior was supple and fragrant, the aroma being intoxicating! Poltrona Frau leather is ultra-high end leather, used to upholster luxury furniture and only the most exclusive cars. The 500 has the charisma to carry this off and, as I've mentioned before, some Ferrari dealers actually use the 500 as a courtesy car for their clientèle. The inside of the 500 has clever features such as hidden storage compartments in the side of the center counsel and under the passenger front seat. There's also lots of room for odds and ends with map pockets behind the seats, trays under the dash, storage bins in the doors and a concealed glove box. There's plenty of room up front for a six-footer to stretch out and be comfortable, plus an average sized adult can fit in the rear if the front seats aren't pushed all the way back. The trunk is, all things considered, roomy.

The overall impression is the 500 is a very neat car. It's cozy, without being cramped, and very well finished, with lots of features and equipment to keep one busy. It feels solid and substantial, the kind of car you can drive to work everyday and, later, take it out for a night on the town without feeling the need to "change up." Below, with the help of Fiat Press, is a detailed look at the interior of the Fiat 500: The designers paid the utmost attention to detail, while focusing on simplicity, which is the leitmotif of the new model. Simple does not mean ‘bare’, but embraces a particular stylistic and constructive interpretation that strives for ‘simplified enjoyment.’

The passenger compartment is airy and roomy, an environment where you can enjoy the time you spend in the car comfortably and at ease. It is also an embracing, protective environment thanks to the large ring that circles the entire space inside.

The structure of the Fiat 500 cabin sums up the comprehensiveness of the modern, ergonomic outfit, in a design inspired by the historical 500. Starting with the steering column, which is made up of steering wheel and instruments, grouped in a single panel which contains the speedometer, rev counter and trip computer, all concentric and perceptible immediately and simultaneously.

These elements, together with the central console and the radio-air vent unit, can be ordered in ivory or ..., a choice that influences the character of the car, making it more ‘vintage’ or sporty.

The instrument panel on the Fiat 500 is an ideal blend of retro styling and modern technology which adapts perfectly to the interior of the car. Built by Magneti Marelli, it comes in two versions: ‘Comfort’ and ‘Matrix’, and the latter features a dot matrix monitor at the center of the panel which displays the pictograms for the satellite navigation system incorporated in the Blue&Me™ Nav device.

If the upper part of the fascia is designed to convey a sense of refinement and elegance, the lower part conveys functionality with capacious, open storage shelves, and small and medium sized drawers for more valuable items that you want to conceal.

The gear lever, which is positioned on the fascia, looks like a refined mechanical component, with chromed parts and a simple but efficient black knob that is shiny or chrome-plated depending on the version. The set of most frequently used buttons was inspired by the telltales and small levers of the old 500, and is very quick and easy to use.

Fiat 500 Pop Interior
The seats deserve a separate mention; the various versions copy those of the 500 F of the 1960s with the same ‘split’ effect: solid tone fabric at the bottom and the upper lunette and a head-restraint that match the color of the steering wheel.
Fiat 500 Lounge Interior
The most lavish version of the new 500 also offers elegant Cordura fabric upholstery, finished with a tubular border over the stitching,

Fiat 500 Sport Interior
...while the seats and fascia on the 500 Sport show the influence of the racing world, with two tone color elements, a chrome-plated gear lever knob and larger bolstering in the front seats.

Fiat 500 with Frau Leather
Fiat 500 customers can also order prestigious Frau leather upholstery, choosing from a traditional Black, a hide color that recalls the earlier 500 and an ultra-sporty Red.
The door panels feature a contrast between the part upholstered to match the seats and the plastic structure that incorporates a large oddment pocket and the speakers. The door handle has a chromed ‘hook’ shape that recalls one of the best remembered features on the door of the historic 500. What is more, in spite of its small size, the new model is amazingly roomy, thanks to careful placement of storage units, such as the two compartments on the fascia for the driver...

and passenger,
the hidden compartment on the passenger side,
those in the door panels,
another in the gearbox support and
one above the passenger seat.
And the luggage compartment is also quite capacious (185 liters, or a maximum of 550 liters right up to the ceiling), and the loading threshold is low to make loading easier;

the rear seat squab can also be folded down. The rear seat is very comfortable for 2 people, and on all versions it reiterates the same attention to detail that is evident in the front seats. To highlight the fact that the car really is roomy, the upper outline of the squabs is raised to support and clasp passengers’ backs better. And finally, a console positioned between the seats near the tunnel acts as a ‘docking station’, it can hold the usual small items (glasses and cans), and ... ...houses the 12V socket and USB port to connect a range of functional accessories, and telematic devices such as an iPod or PDA, or... ...even a fragrance dispenser which offers the customer a choice of fragrances. With thanks to Fiat Group Press