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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chrysler dealers excited about Fiat franchise...

The much anticipated meeting between Fiat North America and potential US Fiat dealers occurred Monday, August 30th. Details are emerging from the meeting, which left many dealers positively excited about the opportunity.

Potential Fiat dealers will be expected to start with small showrooms: 2,500-3,000 square feet, which is enough to display three or four cars. I've reported on this before here, and this confirms that a separate facility will not be required from the start.

This showroom size should be sufficient until the product portfolio expands during the next few years and a new facility will be warranted. Currently, the 500 sedan is scheduled to be sold at the end of this year, followed by the 500C convertible in the spring of 2011. Next is the 500 Abarth and 500EV (the 500EV is an all electric version due out in 2012).

Alfa Romeo is also scheduled to arrive in the US in 2012 and it is said that US Fiat dealers could be given first dibs on that franchise (this was discussed but not promised). By 2014, 7 Alfa Romeo models are expected to be sold and, when combined with the 4 or 5 Fiat models (a 4 door Fiat is also slated to arrive by then), will give new Fiat dealers a viable product mix.

As in Europe, the US Fiat 500 will also have a large number of ways it can be customized by its owner and it is expected that a large percentage of customers will pre-order cars just the way they like.

Fiat expects to initially sell about 50,000 Fiat 500s, that number rising to about 78,000 in 2013 once the other 500 versions make it into showrooms.

Chrysler expects to name 165 dealers in 119 U.S. markets to sell the Fiat 500. The dealer network is expected to expand to about 200 locations as more products become available.

Below is the official Chrysler press release on the meeting:

August 30, 2010 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - Chrysler Group LLC today hosted about 400 Chrysler Group dealers to outline the requirements to become a Fiat dealer in the United States.

The dealers met with the Chrysler Group team responsible for establishing a Fiat retail network by the end of this year. The company wants Fiat dealerships in about 165 locations, in metropolitan areas chosen for their high concentration of small-car registrations.

Dealers left today’s meeting armed with the information needed to submit a competitive proposal for a Fiat franchise. Dealers have been asked to submit their proposals by Sept. 22. Chrysler Group expects to name its Fiat dealers in the fourth quarter.

The Fiat brand offers our dealers the opportunity to be part of a unique experience,” said Laura Soave, Head of Fiat Brand North America. “Our dealers will be able to interact with a group of individuals that are not part of their current customer base. These are individuals interested in Italian automotive design coupled with fuel efficient technology. Our dealers will be the key point of contact with our customers, and thereby, a crucial part of the success of the Fiat brand.”

Chrysler Group dealers located in the targeted markets were invited to attend today’s meeting where they learned about the rich history of the Fiat brand, the U.S. product plans, volume expectations, competitors, and dealership facility and training requirements.

“We have determined the areas of the country where they can succeed and grow,” said Peter Grady, Chrysler Group’s Vice President of Network Development and Fleet. “Now they must submit proposals detailing their plan for representing Fiat, from the showroom to sales, marketing and after sales.”

The new Fiat retail network will begin selling the U.S. version of the Fiat 500 late this year, and the Fiat 500 Cabrio model in 2011. The Fiat 500 will be built in Toluca, Mexico.

The North American version of the Fiat 500 will be equipped with Fiat’s 1.4-liter, in-line four-cylinder Fully Integrated Robotized Engine (FIRE) featuring the MultiAir system. The engine is manufactured in the United States.

MultiAir is a sophisticated technology that delivers an increase in power up to 10 percent and a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions up to 10 percent when compared to similar engines. The Fiat 500 also will feature advanced technology intelligently adapted for the North American market.

With thanks to Chrysler Media

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inside the Fiat 500 factory...

While we're waiting for the North American version of the Fiat 500 to begin rolling off the assembly line in Toluca, Mexico, let's take a look at where the European Fiat 500 is made.

The Euro Fiat 500 is manufactured at the Fiat Auto Poland factory, located in the Polish city of Tychy. One of the most modern in the world, the Tychy factory has won numerous prestigious awards. Notably in September 1996, Fiat Auto Poland became the first automotive company in Europe to win the ISO 9001 Quality Assurance Certificate.

More recently, in 2007, Fiat Auto Poland joined the select group of "World Class Manufacturing” organizations, that is companies recognized with the best production systems in the world. WCM means a comprehensive program of reconfiguring production management systems, a program based on fundamental principles of eliminating losses and waste in every shape or form. WCM draws on the best time-tested methods and tools supported by commitment and involvement of the entire staff and management in the process.

Here's a summary of awards won by Fiat Auto Poland:

- ISO 9001 Quality Assurance Certificate in 1996
- ISO 14001 Environmental Management System certification for the Body Plant in Tychy in 1999
- ISO 9001:2000 and PN-N-18001 in 2002
- The Polish Quality Award in 2004
- FAP was recognized for excellence in 2005 in the European Quality Award Competition, the
first Polish company awarded
- Bronze Level Award for adherence to WCM standards in 2007
- The top place for Fiat Panda in the category of city cars in ADAC’s 2008 reliability
- ‘Auto Lider 2008’ special award for FAP for its long-standing contribution to the
development of Polish automotive industry and economy
- Silver Level Award in 2009 from the WCM audit

(It should be noted that Chrysler has adopted Fiat's World Class Manufacturing techniques and the plant in Mexico slated to build the North American Fiat 500 is well on its way to achieving WCM status.)

Fiat Auto Poland Factory, Tychy, Poland

The plant in Tychy employs 6,422 people and one car rolls off its lines every 35 seconds translating to a daily production of over 1,500 cars. In 2009, the factory produced 605,797 automobiles. It covers 1,365,259 square meters in total area with 426,180 square meters of usable area.

Take a tour of the Tychy factory:

The Welding Shop

The Welding Shop is the most automated department in the factory with 715 robots on the Panda and Fiat 500 lines.

This is where individual components are mounted together to form the body and where the car gets its definite form.

After the welding shop, bolt on body panels are installed. Here the tailgate has just been installed.

After the tailgate is installed, doors are next. The doors will be removed once the body is painted to allow easier access.

Hood is installed and alignment checked with optical equipment.

Body ready for priming and sealing.

The Paint Shop

This video shows the automated paint process. Note this video is from the Mirafiore factory, Tychy uses a similar process.

Primed and sealed, this Fiat 500 is headed towards the Paint Shop.

The Paint Shop is considered one of the most advanced industrial installations of this type in Europe with extensive automation guaranteeing high quality standards. Using water-based paint and very low levels of solvent, it is a state of the art, environmentally friendly, facility.

Base coat and...

...clear coat applied.

Here, the body undergoes phosphate coating, cathaphoresis, and sealing, gets a primer coat, metallic or pastel base coat, and finally a clear coat. The paint shop is fully environment-controlled.

Paint inspection

Paint is applied using an electrostatic sprayer. This technology enables the paint particles to be charged, meaning that, following the spraying carried out by means of the 30,000 rpm rotation of the turbine cup, they are attracted to the sheet metal of the body. By using the electrostatic application technology, the efficiency of transfer of the product increases from approximately 35 percent to more than 80 percent. The main advantages are excellent paint coverage and less paint waste while still achieving the required application thicknesses.

The paint is looked over...

by skilled craftspeople...

...and perfected.

With the paint work done, the body is loaded onto an overhead conveyor to be sent over to the Assembly Plant.

The Assembly Plant

The doors are removed and protective coverings installed to protect the new paint.

The Assembly Plant is where individual trim components are fitted, such as dashboard, driveline, suspension, front end, seats, radiator, fan,tanks, etc.

The Fiat 500 factory is organized, clean, bright and airy. World Class Manufacturing is about eliminating waste, making work more efficient and encouraging workers to come up with solutions to achieve these goals.

Dashboard about to be installed. Traditionally a very awkward job, now made easier through automation.

Dashboard easily guided into place.

The drivetrain and suspension ready to be installed. Note the assemblies are raised.... allow a more comfortable position for the workers.

The front radiator support for the Fiat 500 is detachable, making the engine very accessible.

After the front end is installed, next come the wheel and tire assemblies. The Fiat 500 Abarth is also made in Tychy.

Fluids are filled

Meanwhile, the doors, which were removed after painting to facilitate access to the interior, have received their components and are ready...

It takes 16 ”process” hours for the Tychy plant to transform rolls of sheet metal into a finished car. be installed.

Final detail inspections.

However, it is only a theoretical cycle as it does not include all the necessary logistics and preparatory operations.

More inspections and...


The finished car undergoes strict and thorough testing and inspection before it is turned over to marketing to assure the highest possible quality.

The Fiat 500 on the dynamometer at the factory.

Some sub-assemblies arrive at the plant as finished products ready to be mounted. Therefore, the plant can turn out about 880 Fiat Panda, 570 Fiat 500 and 70 Fiat Seicento cars a day.

Sources:Fiat Group Press, Fiat Auto Poland,

Monday, August 23, 2010

How is the rust proofing on the new Fiat 500?

Rust is not an issue on modern Fiats, they are among the most rust resistant cars you can buy.

Some of the anti-corrosion steps taken on the new Fiat 500
  • Coated steels
  • Electrophoretic Painting Process (E-Coat) submersive primer on the complete body
  • Body sealing to eliminate water and air intrusion where panels join
  • Structural adhesives in some joints
  • Chip resistant, powder coat primer applications on the entire body
  • Electrostatic Paint application
  • Underbody corrosion protection
  • Automated “PVC” sealant application

Besides sprayed on rust proof coatings, panels galvanized on both sides account for 90% of the 500's body weight.

In particular, all the parts that make up the chassis and the most exposed to corrosive agents, are 100% galvanized.

Of these, the structures defined as safety structures, such as the suspension mountings and reinforcements for the seat belts, are made from panels with a high zinc thickness, up to 20 microns.

All the body panels for the doors, bonnet, boot lid, side panels, wings and roof are made entirely from 8 micron galvanized steel.

The exception is some of the inner parts of the passenger compartment because there is no risk at all of oxidation such as, for example, the dashboard mounting brackets.

Related reading:

The 2012 Fiat 500: Improved and Refined (part 1)

The 2012 Fiat 500: Improved and Refined (part 2)

Source: Fiat SpA
Pictures: Fiat Group Press

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fiat Mobile Experience at the 2010 Woodward Dream Cruise

The Fiat Mobile Experience will be on display at the 2010 Woodward Dream Cruise, this Saturday, August 21. Held in Royal Oak, Michigan, at the Northwood Shopping Plaza, the Woodward Dream Cruise is the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the world.

In addition to the European Fiat 500 being on display, Chrysler is bringing a number of interesting vehicles,

All-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
All-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo
Jeep Wrangler Nukizer 715
Jeep Wrangler Trail Boss
Fiat 500 (European Version)

1970 Fiat 500
Dodge Challenger R/T

Dodge Challenger SRT8
Dodge Targa Challenger
Dodge Charger SRT8
Dodge Motorsports Display including: #2 NASCAR and #12 NASCAR, Viper ACR-X, Viper Nurburgring, Viper Convertible, Viper Comp Coupe, Mopar edition Challenger R/T, Pace Challenger SRT8 and Nitro Shock
1968 Dodge Coronet Convertible

1998 Viper GTS
Ram 2500 Power Wagon
Ram 1500
Ram 3500 HD

Mopar 10 Challenger
1967 Plymouth Fury III

1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda

With 40,000 classic cars from around the world, there is bound to be something for everyone there. Don't miss it!

With thanks to Chrysler Media
Fiat Group Press

Will someone 6 feet 2 inches fit into a Fiat 500 (?) and other questions...

The other day I received a comment from a reader of this blog who has a few good questions. I thought I would share them with you.

My thanks to Michael M for checking out my blog and for taking the time to post a comment.

Hello Chris, three questions 1) When will the cars arrive in the Northern California Area and is there a place I could see one now?
Fiat North America has been showing up at various auto shows with the European Fiat 500. Recently it was at the Concorso Italiano auto show in Monterey, California. Keep an eye on this blog for when it will show up next.

Great news is folks on the west coast will be lucky this Fall as the North American version of the Fiat 500 will make its debut at the LA Auto Show, November 19-28. Don't miss this!

2) How supportive will the dealerships be for the 500?
The Fiat 500 will be marketed through select Chrysler dealers. Only the best dealers will be able to get the Fiat Franchise. The requirements are very stringent including a separate, dedicated staff. You can read more about Fiat dealers here.
After talking with the head of Fiat North America, Laura Soave, I can tell you she (and everyone I met from Chrysler) is absolutely committed to Fiat's success in this country. Soave has a strong background in customer service that will serve us well here.

With Fiat's help, Chrysler has refocused on customer service. An example is Chrysler is the first in the industry to introduce free, downloadable vehicle owner-information apps for smartphones. Besides an owner's manual, this app features includes product literature, detailed feature descriptions, photos, videos, frequently asked questions, and the ability to set up service appointments and purchase parts. Read more about this mobile app

Our driver, who is just about 6'2", with the seat all the way back. Actually leaning forward with lots of room

3) I'm six foot 2+inches and 205 lbs and 67 yrs old I am wondering if I am going to be able to get in and out of one of these cars with ease. The Abarth knocks my sox off, I'd love to have one of those. I'm driving an 05 Subaru legacy wagon that is a rocket (I love it and it will pass anything on the road except a gas station) Thanks Michael M Oakland CA
Our driver at his normal seating position

The Fiat 500 was developed to fit large people. Here's a picture of a big guy (just about 6'2") sitting in the car. He drives this car regularly and has no problem fitting in.

Check out this road test on the English show "Top Gear". Jeremy Clarkson is 6'6" and has no problem fitting in.
A driver who is approx 6'2.5" getting into the front seat of the Fiat 500. Notice how his back can remain upright, without stooping

You can read more about the Fiat 500's interior accommodations and watch a neat video here.

Michael, hope this helps.

Thanks again and best regards, Chris

With thanks to Chrysler Media, Fiat Group Press and
our accommodating driver, Jason.