Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Fiat’

Observations From an Auto Show

January 28th, 2011 Comments off

The Washington, DC Auto Show kicked off today.  And although it’s not the premiere event on most automakers’ calendars, it is an important occasion, given the vast intersection between the auto industry and policy makers.  It’s also the auto show that’s easiest for me to attend, given that it takes place in the city in which I work…

So, as I wandered through the automakers’ displays, taking note of the new models on the floor (…and I’m talking about the cars, not the barbie-esque spokespersons demonstrating how to recline the seats…), I made a few observations.  And here they are.

Fiat 500 Sport

Fiat is here. Yes, I’ve been excited about the arrival of the Cinquecento for some time.  And Chrysler … err, Fiat had quite a few on display in various colors and trim levels.  This is a nice car. ..It’s a small car.  (Grown people may not be able to fit in the back seat.)  But I think it will sell at least as well as the Mini Cooper (its only real competition) has done.  Molto bene!

Chrysler may be back from the brink, but its future isn’t certain. One of two automakers that the government saved from complete collapse (the other being GM), Chrysler finally has an updated line-up reaching the market.  It is much improved (the new Jeep Grand Cherokee is awesome, and the new Durango and Charger are impressive as well); but I get the feeling their first step post-rescue, while big, is still a little shaky.  I’m skeptical that any of these vehicles (other than the Cherokee) will sell in large numbers.  And it’s telling that their Fiat 500 display was the most crowded spot in the entire Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Fiat area while I was there.

Buick is relevant. GM started turning Buick around not long before the General found itself at the edge of the cliff.  Through their restructuring, the Buick brand was saved, and now has an expanded (and impressive) model line-up.  The Enclave is arguably the best looking vehicle in its class, the Regal GS is bad-ass (yes, I said a Buick is bad-ass), and the upcoming Verano is a small car for grown-ups.  Now, if only they could come up with better model names…

Acura isn’t. Honda’s premium brand, for some reason, has decided to make cars that nobody wants to buy.

Ford C-Max

Ford is on a tear. From where I stood, Ford had the biggest presence at the Washington Auto Show, and had the vehicles to back it up.  They’re making great cars lately – the new Taurus, Focus, Fiesta, and Explorer (not to mention the EcoBoost powertrains, as well as hybrids and pure electrics) are at the top of their class.  The new C-Max is impressive as well.  Ford was the only Detroit automaker that didn’t require government assistance – and now they’re flaunting it.

The Mercedes Benz SLS AMG isn’t nearly as attractive in person as it is in the pictures. Sad, but true.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Right now, I’d rather be Hyundai than Toyota or Honda.  It used to be that the Korean imports could only hope to match the quality, performance, styling, and reliability of the two biggest Japanese brands.  Now Toyota and Honda would do well to aim for Hyundai.  Hyundai claims that the Sonata hybrid is designed to be the first hybrid you want to buy.  They may be right.

Mini is a brand. Sure, the modern Cooper has been around for a few years now, but it’s basically been thought of a sub-brand of BMW.  Now with the (ugly) Clubman and the (still ugly but I want one anyway) Countryman, they’ve got a whole line-up. And they don’t have any competition.  (Well, scratch that, due to my first observation above!)

Nissan may be a one-trick pony. With all the (well-deserved) hype about the Leaf, people may have forgotten that Nissan makes other vehicles, too.  Apparently, so has Nissan.  They still make some good cars, but their design language – which had gotten just a little avant-garde in a desirable sort of way – has taken a wrong turn.

2011 Audi RS5

Audi makes the best interiors.  And exteriors. VW’s premium brand gained a reputation for making the inside of their vehicles one of the most eye-pleasing environments into which a person could deposit him (or her) self.  That’s still true.  And the exteriors have followed suit.  Add to that cutting edge technologies such as Quattro, TDI, TFSI, and the aluminum space frame, and it’s no wonder Audi saw sales increase last year more than rivals BMW or Mercedes.

And finally, people need to be informed by folks who understand. The official auto show guide, in describing the 10 most efficient vehicles (as rated by the EPA), said that if a (all-electric) Nissan Leaf had a 14-gallon gas tank, it could travel over 1300 miles… What?  How does that work?  What good is a gas tank on an electric vehicle?… (OK, it works by calculating the energy content of gasoline – approximately 33.7 kWh per gallon – and falsely assuming that, because the EPA fuel economy label says that the Leaf uses about 34 kWh to travel 100 miles, it could travel over 1300 miles on the energy content of 14 gallons of gasoline.  The EPA fuel economy label also says the Leaf gets 99 MPG.  Which is a nonsensical metric for an electric vehicle.)

Scorpio

November 18th, 2010 Comments off

Karl Alberto Abarth was a Scorpio.

Scorpios are all about intensity and contradictions.  They appear cool and collected on the outside, while underneath boils tremendous power, strength, and passion.  They give the impression of being detached and unemotional, though they possess strong willpower and fierce determination.  They may appear small and frugal, but are a blast to drive.

…What?…

Abarth began converting run-of-the-mill Fiats into small, affordable sports cars in the 1950s, under the sign of the scorpion, and since then, the scorpion-badged cars have represented race-bred performance at a reasonable price.  So, imagine my giddiness when I found out today that the Abarth version of the Fiat 500 will be making it’s way to the U.S.!

As someone who follows the auto industry, I’ve known – and been excited about – the fact that Fiat will soon be returning to the U.S., due to their recently consummated relationship with Chrysler.  I was even more excited upon finding out a few months ago that Fiat’s reintroduction would begin with the diminutive 500.  It’s obvious from this post over a year ago that I’m a fan of small-but-fun cars.  And I don’t mean the slow, decontented ones we typically get here in the States.  The fact that the Abarth is one of the flavors that will be available to us is unexpected icing on the automotive cake! (Go over to the website and build one for yourself!  …Unfortunately, the Abarth option isn’t active yet…)

Fiat 500 Abarth

I’m hopeful that the 500 will do well here.  In my opinion, it should.  It’s in the same vein as the Mini Cooper, albeit slightly smaller.  (Though not so small as the not-so-Smart.)  The Abarth is like the Mini Cooper S – after a brief stay in juvie.  It’s the badass little econobox that says, in a cute little Italian accent, “Per favore, mi scusi,” while punching you in the face.

It’s a Scorpio.


Categories: Auto Companies, Small Cars Tags:

Small Cars / Fun Cars

June 29th, 2009 Comments off
Fiat 500 Abarth

Fiat 500 Abarth

One of the outcomes for which I was hoping from the Fiat takeover of Chrysler has now been confirmed!  The Fiat 500 will be coming to the U.S. (as reported by autobloggreen).  I’d love to park that in my garage, alongside the Alfa Romeo Mi.To.  …Of course, I don’t actually have the Alfa in my garage, since it isn’t sold here.  …Which is the case with a lot of the most eye-pleasing, sporty small cars from across the pond.  Why is this?  Why has the North American market been so focused on large SUVs and trucks, while the ultra-compact car segment has been relegated largely to a few featureless, ill-handling, snore-inducing models?

Alfa Romeo Mi.To

Alfa Romeo Mi.To

A large part of the answer is the difference in the price we pay at the pump, as well as different tax systems that penalize larger cars in Europe.  But another reason is the differences in our cultures.  We Americans need large 7-passenger vehicles with acres of storage space to transport our large broods and our gear from our estates in the suburbs to our offices, private schools, and shopping malls spread far and wide, don’t we?  …Cynism aside, this isn’t necessarily untrue.  (My wife and I purchased a 7-passenger crossover when we realized the infant-seat for our second child would not fit in our Audi A4 and still allow room for a front-seat passenger!)

So, perhaps our large, inefficient cars aren’t the problem – they’re just the symptom of a larger problem – our sprawling, poorly-designed cities, which have led us to our car monoculture (as described by Dan Sperling and Deborah Gordon in their book Two Billion Cars).  And as big of an undertaking as it will be to transition our vehicle fleet to an efficient one based on low-carbon energy sources, it could be a much more difficult task to transform our cities to the type of mixed-use places that solve our mobility issue, at least in the way that Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins suggests when he says the ultimate mode of transport is being there already.

So, I’m quite excited for the Fiat 500 – the Abarth version, of course!  (This is the car that made Top Gear‘s Jeremy Clarkson quite giddy!  …Top Gear = best show ever, by the way…)  But I wonder – will it sell in America?  Or do we just have too far to drive, and too much stuff to bring with us?