The Truth About Cars » Fiat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 04 Mar 2015 18:10:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Fiat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/fiat-reviews/ Review: 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-fiat-500-abarth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-fiat-500-abarth/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861481 Is there a car enthusiast whose pulse does not quicken when he or she hears the brrrap brap of the exhaust  when the North American spec Fiat Abarth fires up? TTAC’s managing editor Derek Kreindler is correct, the Abarth does indeed sound faster than it actually is, but it still sounds glorious. Don’t tell me […]

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Full gallery here

Is there a car enthusiast whose pulse does not quicken when he or she hears the brrrap brap of the exhaust  when the North American spec Fiat Abarth fires up? TTAC’s managing editor Derek Kreindler is correct, the Abarth does indeed sound faster than it actually is, but it still sounds glorious. Don’t tell me that an inline four can’t sound as exciting as a V8 or even a V12. Saying that an eight or a twelve “sounds better” than a four is like saying that a big band sounds better than a trio, as if you can’t enjoy both Duke Ellington and Cream.

Not only does it sound good when you start it up, I suspect that the ECU on the Abarth’s turbocharged and twin-intercooled 1.4 liter motor may even be deliberately dumping a little unburned fuel into the exhaust manifold on throttle overruns. You start looking for tunnels and concrete walls just to hear the sound reverberate. Of course, while the Fiat Abarth playing the  Rice Krispies Symphony may bring a smile to the face of just about any car enthusiast, to worshipers of Gaia I fear that the little Italian car by way of Auburn Hills and Mexico sounds like the death rattles of a million baby polar bears. Well, as they say, one person’s music is another person’s turn that crap down. That exhaust isn’t the only thing about the little car that will make you smile.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Besides an exhaust that will never ever let you sneak out of the house at night unnoticed, the Abarth would never be described as inconspicuous. Rosso red paint, worthy of an Italian car, and large Abarth logos and scorpions all over the joint (it’s hard to find a Fiat logo on the Abarth), added to the big wheels, wide tires and aggressive stance will surely get you noticed.

For a car with two Italian brand names, it might come as some surprise that, as alluded to above, the U.S. market Fiat Abarth was developed by Chrysler’s team in the Detroit area and assembled in Mexico. While that might seem ironic for a car marketed with Italian brio, I think the car’s global background fits the history of Carlo Abarth well. Born Karl Abarth, to a Jewish family in Austria, he made a name for himself tuning and racing motorcycles. Injuries from a racing accident and the Nazi Anschluss in Austria stopped his racing career and life in Austria. He spent the duration of World War II in Yugoslavia. After the war, he moved to Italy, where he had ties dating to the early 1930s. He had great connections. Abarth personally knew the great racer Tazio Nuvolari and was friends with Ferry Porsche, Ferdinand Porsche’s son. As a matter of fact, Abarth married the secretary of Ferry Porsche’s brother-in-law Anton Piëch. In Italy he was one of the founders of the influential Cisitalia company. When that firm dissolved, he started Abarth & C. S.p.A in 1949. In 1952 the Abarth firm started a relationship with Fiat, tuning and racing their cars and selling performance accessories, that culminated in the automaker’s acquisition of the Abarth company in 1971.

While Carlo didn’t have much to do with the development of the car that bears his name, the team in Auburn Hills produced a car that’s great fun to drive in most real world driving situations. Though I have a fondness for the large American sedans of my youth, I’ve always loved little cars. One of the first cars that I drove was my brother’s ’63 Mini Cooper. In many ways the Fiat Abarth is a spiritual descendant of that car, a car that took the inherent goodness of a FWD econobox and made it even better. When I drove the base Fiat 500 as a rental car, I enjoyed my week with it, though it was obviously a cheap car. Tossing it around a corner, even getting the rear end to wag a little, you could tell the base Fiat wanted to handle. The Abarth iteration of the 500 fulfills that promise.

The Abarth version turns up the wick on how the 500 sticks. It has all the grip you’d ever need for any kind of enthusiastic street driving. Much of that can be attributed to the 205/40R17 Pirelli PZero “three season” tires, but there’s also been some careful attention to suspension tuning. The Abarth feels both more dampened and more supple than the base car. Also, considering that the Fiat has a very short wheelbase, the Abarth had a better ride than the Dodge Dart GT that I drove the week before. Since both the Dart GT and the U.S. market Fiat Abarth were developed by Chrysler’s team in Auburn Hills from Italian platforms, it’s somewhat surprising that the larger Alfa Romeo based Dart has a more bone shaking ride than the Abarth.

Though the Abarth has power steering, it’s not a car to one hand it around town. Make the shift and put your right hand back on the wheel. Steering feel through the chunky steering wheel was uniformly heavy. Speaking of chunky steering wheels, if I can be allowed a slight digression, just because a car is intended for driving in a sporting manner doesn’t mean it needs a steering wheel whose rim is two inches in diameter. Okay, so that’s an exaggeration, but along with the proliferation of flat-bottomed steering wheels, we’ve seen the grips on steering wheels getting fatter and fatter, so much so that someone like me, who has relatively small hands, sometimes finds some of them, like the one on the Fiat Abarth, a bit too chunky to handle comfortably, sort of how I feel about a Glock 9mm.

You had better have a good grip on that chunky steering wheel because, as mentioned, the Fiat Abarth is not a car to casually drive with one hand lightly on the wheel. The steering is fairly heavily weighted, though it lightens up a bit on the highway. Actually, on the interstates the Abarth is relatively comfortable for a short wheelbase car that’s bound to be pitching up and down. Another reason for keeping a firm hand on the wheel is that, as with some other front wheel drive based cars of European origin, the Fiat Abarth has a tendency to follow linear road irregularities. It dances a bit on grooved pavement and it will track asphalt that has been worn into wide grooves. That phenomenon is exaggerated with heavy braking or if you manage to elicit some torque steer when accelerating.

For the most part, though, torque steer wasn’t particularly noticeable. I also didn’t notice much turbo lag as some have reported. It’s there if you’re the sort who redlines a lot but it really wasn’t an issue in normal around the town driving. I like small cars and I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of front wheel drive since I first drove that ’63 Mini. Combine small size, good handling and sufficient power and you have a perfect tool for the cut and thrust of urban and suburban driving. If the hole in traffic is big enough for the Abarth, the 1.4 turbo will get you there.

While it’s not the fastest car on the street, not as quick, let’s say, as the Ford Fiesta ST, my personal feeling is that it’s fast enough for just about any kind of enthusiastic driving outside of the track. Whether you end up preferring the Abarth, the FiST,  or the Toyota/Scion/Subaru sports coupe is a matter of taste and driving styles. No matter which you would choose, though, you’d have fun with the Abarth.

It’s fine in the city and out on the highway you can cruise all day long at just about any speed that’s prudent, and even some imprudent speeds as well. Top speed is specified as a governed 129 mph and while I didn’t get the Abarth that high on the 160 mph speedometer, the indicated 117 I reached at Schreiber’s Secret High Speed Test Facility let me believe that the specs are accurate. The engine was losing some steam as it wound out in the top gear of the upgraded 5 speed transmission, but it still should be able to see 129 if the straightaway is long enough. I should report, however, that after the high speed run I did notice some odd odors from something heating up under the hood.

For the most part, I genuinely liked the Fiat Abarth, so much so that as the week with it wound down and I used up the free tank of gas that it came with (see below for observed mpgs), I ate the expense of buying premium gasoline for it, rather than use my daily driver, which takes 87 octane. It’s an eager puppy of a car that’s quite easy to like.

There were some things, though, that I didn’t like. Most of them had to do with the fact that it’s based on a cheap economy car that’s getting a bit long in the tooth. The modern day 500 was introduced in Europe in 2007, a couple of product cycles ago. I don’t like the way the concentric instrument cluster is laid out, and while it’s nice to have the auxiliary boost gauge that lets you know that the convenient Sport mode button on the center stack really does make a difference how the engine is mapped, the indicator light telling you to shift up doesn’t seem to follow any logic that I’ve learned in over 40 years of driving a stick shift.

Also, the arm rests for the front seats are located so that when both of them are down, you can’t reach the parking brake, a hassle in a car with a manual gearbox. I don’t know if it’s a design feature or a flaw, but the driver’s side arm rest has sagged a bit on both Fiat 500s that I’ve driven, which adds to the impression that the Abarth is based on a cheap car.

Speaking of manual transmissions, the dash mounted 5 speed gear selector on the Abarth has fairly short throws, but the low mileage press car’s shifter was not ideal. Trying to downshift from 5th to 3rd was an iffy proposition and I even had a hard time finding 3rd on an upshift or two. On the other hand, the clutch was very smooth and easy to use. So easy that I used it to start teaching my daughter how to drive a stick (note the indefinite article, “drive stick” gets you a demerit in Language Arts) and she was able to get the little car rolling around the parking lot without stalling it on only the third try.

Can I say that the bass from the Beats by Dr. Dre audio system sounded had some coloration?

Can I say that the bass from the Beats by Dr. Dre audio system sounded like it had some coloration?

As stickered out on the Monroney sheet, the test car was a tick over $30K, $30,004 including an $800 destination charge. The base Abarth is $22,095 and in my estimation much of the $8,000 in options wouldn’t be well spent, at least if I was buying the car. The $1,200 “performance” leather trimmed high back bucket seats are best left unchecked on the options list. They don’t provide you with enough side bolstering for the car’s handling abilities. They were less effective in that regard than the seats on the Dodge Dart GT. Save the money and buy an aftermarket performance driver’s seat instead. The audio system was $700 and comes with the Beats brand. After VW’s deal to label Panasonic stereo systems with Fender’s brand, I’m not so naive as to think that Dr. Dre had anything to do with that sound system beyond getting paid to put the Beats brand on it. Both of the Beats audio systems in Fiat Chrysler cars that I’ve tested have been unimpressive and please don’t call me a racist if I say that there was more than a little coloration in the bass (besides, I think Dr. Dre sold that business to Sony for really big bucks). The $600 tacked on TomTom Blue&Me nav system also didn’t seem like a prudent purchase in light of what you have on your phone already. It also was not easy for me to use. On the plus side, my Android phone reliably hooked up to the car for both phone and music.

A half century of high performance minicar progress. The Abarth's 17" rims are about as big around as an original 1963 Mini Cooper's tire's (with 10" wheels) were.

A half century of high performance minicar progress. The Abarth’s 17″ rims are about as big around as an original 1963 Mini Cooper’s tires, and that brake rotor and caliper would never fit inside the Mini’s 10″ wheels.

I also wouldn’t pop for the $1,300 power sunroof, but I concede that if you’re going to drive a car that is supposed to represent Italian spirit, you might want some al fresco driving. For an almost fully open air Abarth experience, the model is available as a cabriolet (the Fiat 500 convertible retains the side roof rails). The 17 by 7 inch forged aluminum “hyper black” wheels are an easier call. They cost as much as the sunroof does, but they probably contribute to the Abarth’s fine handling, so they’re probably worth the price. Just for grins I dug the spare tire out of the boot of the Mini Cooper (which my brother is storing here). In half a century, the wheel size on a tiny car has grown from 10″ to 17″. The rims on the Abarth as as big or bigger than then original Mini Cooper’s whole wheel and tire assembly.

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The Abarth has a proper and substantial false pedal that comes in handy to brace yourself with the Fiat’s enthusiastic handling. Full gallery here

The upshot is that for less than $25,000 (A/C is standard) you can get a decently equipped Fiat Abarth that is likely to put a big smile on your face. It may be based on a cheap car, but the Abarth is not an economy car. I got a pretty consistent 24.7 miles per gallon of premium gasoline. That’s fine for a performance car but far from what the base 500 can get.  As an aside, why do they sell cars that require 91 octane while all the gas stations around here only sell 93? Okay, so filling half and half with 89 and 93 gets the right R+M/2 rating, but it’s either the hassle of dong the math and pumping twice or paying more for fuel than you really have to pay. In addition to requiring premium fuel, the Fiat Abarth requires the use of synthetic engine lubricating oil.

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You can haul your little ones around in the back seat but they won’t have much leg room. Full gallery here

Like the Dodge Dart, the Fiat Abarth doesn’t come with a spare tire, but rather an electric pump with it’s own can of tire sealant, in this case stored under the driver’s seat, taking up some of the rear seat passenger’s already not very generous foot room.

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An electric tire pump and ‘fix a flat’ sealant replaces the spare tire and it’s stored under the driver’s seat. Full gallery here.

In conclusion, the Abarth is just one of a number of fairly desirable enthusiast cars that cost less than $30,000. Offhand there’s the aforementioned Fiesta ST, its big brother the Focus ST, the Toyobaru GT-86/FR-S/BRZ siblings, and I’m sure you can suggest a few more. While they may not be muscle car quick off the line, they all have enough pep to be fun to drive on the street and they all have competent chassis, steering and braking systems that make them fun to drive. They’re not perfect, you can find something to criticize with all of them. They are, after all, built to price points. However, they’re all great fun to drive and if you can’t find one that you could live with and enjoy, either you’ve gotten used to much more expensive cars, or you’re not much of a car enthusiast. Actually, since some of the highest praise for the current generation of entry level sporting motor cars has come from people who get exposed to a lot of very pricey, very high performance automobiles, like some of my colleagues in the car writing biz, I’d say that price doesn’t really matter. There are lot of cars that are great fun to drive, including the Fiat Abarth, and it’s a great time to be a car enthusiast.

The model that I tested was from the 2014 model year. Since then FCA has made the Fiat Abarth available with an automatic transmission.

FCA supplied the car, insurance and a tank of premium gas.

Disclosure: It’s the policy of The Truth About Cars is to reveal to our readers any damage that we do to press cars. Our former editor in chief pro tempore even published an editorial on the topic. I’m not sure if he tempted the fates with that editorial, but I’m sad to say that I damaged one of the Fiat Abarth’s 17″ rims. I’d like to at least be able to say that I went into a corner a little bit hot and clipped the apex, but the truth is that I was lazy and inattentive on a street on which I’ve driven thousands of times before and managed to scrape a curb. The damage was likely just cosmetic but in any case I reported it to our editors and the car company, and now you. You can never be too sure of yourself and you can always learn something that will improve your driving.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Dispatches Do Brasil: A 2008 Fiat Stilo Flex and the Search for Credibility http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/dispatches-brasil-2008-fiat-stilo-flex-search-credibility/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/dispatches-brasil-2008-fiat-stilo-flex-search-credibility/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:36:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008474 Bad reputations are earned in short order and shed only after many years of good behavior. For car companies, such bad raps come relatively quickly and sometimes decades are needed to overcome them. For Fiat, the cute sobriquet Fix-It-Again-Tony seems to be unavoidable no matter how they actually compare in most reliability studies. The fact […]

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Bad reputations are earned in short order and shed only after many years of good behavior. For car companies, such bad raps come relatively quickly and sometimes decades are needed to overcome them. For Fiat, the cute sobriquet Fix-It-Again-Tony seems to be unavoidable no matter how they actually compare in most reliability studies. The fact is they routinely do better than most European rivals and still have to improve to reach Toyota-like reliability. So, the strive for credibility must go on.

Once in a while, however, positive proof of how they are gaining ground on even the best in the business (in terms of reliability) shows up. Recently, I had a chance to experiment one such example in the form of a Brazilian-built 2008 Fiat Stilo.

Carnaval in Brazil is a time to dress down, booze up and meet old friends. Being that it lasts from Saturday to Wednesday, it is also a chance to see long-time-no-see friends who for various reasons live away from our hometown. Being that for whatever reason so many of them were in town this recently passed holiday, I used the occasion to throw a barbecue reuniting expat and local friends once more.

Once the party got started and everyone was enjoying the sun, beer and meat, out of curiosity I took a walk outside to survey my friends’ cars. Of the 16 cars parked on the street near my house, I could identify that some trends are indeed universal. CUVs were there in great numbers (two Honda CR-Vs, a Fiat Freemont, also known as a Dodge Journey), though the American preference for pickups is not as a strong. A double cab global Ford Ranger was the only representative of the SUV-pickup genre. Sedans are big among my friends who own a range of them (Renault Logan, Fiat Grand Siena, Corolla, Civic, Cruze). In this category I saw the only Volkswagen present (perhaps indicative of VW’s woes in Brazil), a Jetta. Hatchbacks were plentiful, too, from a diminutive Fiat 500, to the bigger Renault Sandero and Ford Focus. As this was a group of people with families, a minivan and a minivan-like vehicle (Chevrolet Spin and a Fiat Doblò) were also there.

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Among this motley crew, a Fiat Stilo stood out. Easily the oldest car in that group, I knew whose it was as I had seen it a number of times over the years at similar get togethers and I was curious as to why he still had it. When the opportunity came up, I talked cars with the owner and he gave me a run down of what had happened to the car over its slightly less than 190,000 km in seven years, namely: Nothing.

And that is why he still had it. He enjoys the style of the car and whenever he considered the financial outlay necessary for a new car, his memory of the car’s record would not let him do it. He takes the car to his mechanic every 10,000 km as Fiat prescribes, the mechanic does preventive maintenance and on it goes. I pushed and shoved, but he couldn’t remember a single corrective measure. Change fluids as the manual suggests, brake pads, new tires and shocks, a few bulbs and it’s on its the third battery. How about the suspension and steering? Brazilian roads and streets are infamous for their moon-like quality and cars routinely change parts that last a life-time in other countries. He insists, nothing has needed changing.

Maybe my incredulous face made him do it, but eventually he asked me if I wanted to drive his car. I happily accepted and we agreed that the next day we’d meet to finish off whatever food and drink was leftover from the barbecue, after our test drive of course.

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The next day when we I approached the car I took a closer look and immediately saw some problems. Though the paint still shined and the car had very few scuffs and bruises from the daily grind, some problems were evident. In the red Fiat logos on the hood and wheels some watermarks were quite evident. On the back door sills a very common defect on almost all Stilos was also present. On that sill, near the wheelwell, a yellowish triangle was visible. I passed a finger over it and it seems that for some reason Fiat applied a plastic film over that part. Over time, they (almost) all get yellow and ugly. Finally, the plastic lenses of the headlights showed some wear and were looking somewhat dim. On the other hand, the Stilo always offered dual high intensity lamps with very good results.

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Fearing that similar issues would be present inside, I was pleasantly surprised as to how good everything still looked and felt. Nothing was broken or in the process of coming apart, the leather still felt supple. The headliner was not unduly stained and there were no strange odors. Taking it all in, the Stilo was still a good place to pass the time. The seats are large and supportive though not aggressively so, the driver’s seat, steering wheel and pedals align perfectly. As such, it is easy to find a good position to drive. It is quite a square car, so head and shoulder room are very good as is hip room. The wheel base is long enough that two 6 foot adults can sit comfortably in the back, even if driver and front passenger are of the same height.

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One of the Stilo strong suits was features and content. Though this car had none, optionally up to eight airbags could be had. Connectivity (via Bluetooth) was offered. It was the first Brazilian car to come with electric steering and had the “City” feature. At the touch of this button, the steering would become even lighter for slow speed maneuvers being that this was a car one could (almost) literally park with one finger. As my friend showed off all the features, I duly noted that all still worked, with no undue delays, so if this car is an indication, fear of “Italian” electronics were allayed. As always, I felt the biggest let down in the interior were the gauges and the passage of time had not done them any favors. The now so passé white backdrop with very cheap looking plastic red needles and grey knobs look even worse now though back when the car was launched (2003), most thought it was cool.

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Out on the road, accelerating and cruising, the engine felt very strong. Though European Stilos used diesel and gasoline engines, from 1.2 up to 2.4 20v, the Brazilian Stilo was different. Born during the ill fated (for GM) General Motors-Fiat hookup, in Brazil Fiat made use of GM powerplants for low and mid trim Stilos, reserving its very Italian 2.4 only for top-of-the-line Stilo Abarths. This 2008 was the base model. As such it used a GM 1.8 8v Family I engine bumped up to 114 hp on ethanol, slightly less for gasoline. Though this re-touched engine has the ability to rev higher than the originally 103 hp 1.8 while still delivering gobs of torque down low, it still is a GM engine. Over the years I have heard many a Fiat fan complaining of this engine and how it took away from the Stilo its “Italian-ness”. However, the engine and 5 speed manual transmission are well-mated. The car is nice to drive and offers a degree of fun for a car with family transportation in mind (the 2.4 is another beast, of course). At the time this car was launched magazine tests showed the car touching 190 km/h as its top speed, while the 0-100 km/h dash was over in around 10 seconds. Though that day we didn’t reach those limits, a few high speed bursts showed the engine was still capable of going fast. My friend vouched for it and said he didn’t feel much of a difference from day one. It was still relatively quiet too, without any undue vibrations showing motor mounts and bushings were still in good order.

When we hit some curvy sections, I was reminded once again why I liked this car back in the day. It uses 16 inch wheels, 215 wide tires and it has very good grip with little tendency of breaking loose at the back. This 2008 Stilo still held these same characteristics and though it rolls more than a VW Golf, the benefit of that is that it is just a very comfortable car in the city or highway. The stick is expertly placed, falling naturally to hand. Though not as precise as a traditional Volkswagen box, gears are easy to find. Though seven years old and with all those kilometers under its belt, the clutch felt light and there were no rumors or grinding in the gearbox, suggesting it was healthy.

Heading back home to “enterar os ossos da festa” (bury the party’s bones, a Brazilian expression meaning to finish of the previous day’s party’s leftovers), my friend and I talked about the car’s history. A sales failure in Europe, in Brazil it was successful. It had strong initial sales here, though in the middle of its career, as competition grew (and the falling back wheel scandal ensued) that tapered off. Towards the end, it became a hot seller again based on price and street cred. Around 2005, some consumers started complaining that the back wheel would fall off for no good reason. The Brazilian Ministry of Justice even fined Fiat for failing to make a recall to fix the issue. Over 30 accidents were reported due to the problem and around eight deaths. Fiat defended itself by maintaining the wheel fell off after the accident and not as the cause of the accident.

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Regardless of the cause, that issue went away and in Europe and Brazil the Stilo has a reputation as a sturdy car. Developed under the guidance of German national Herbert Demel (who had previously even been president of VW do Brasil), put at the helm of Fiat Auto specifically to make Fiat more Teutonic, it was a solid looking car that probably looked more German than Italian in an attempt to widen Fiat’s fading appeal at the time. That proved unsuccessful and in 2006, only 36 hours after the announcement of the GM-Fiat break up, Fiat Group president Sergio Marchionne fired Demel and took over Fiat Auto. Under the Canadian’s guidance, a more Italian flavor was again added to the Fiat line, and prettier cars like the Grand Punto and new Bravo were soon launched, not to mention the 500.

Maybe the Stilo was indeed too German. Maybe its difficult to renege your history and copy others’. Maybe credibility (and attendant sales) is not to be found on such a road. But the Stilo was a car on which Fiat continued improving its reliability and eventually passed Volkswagen and the French in European reliability ratings. Surely, some of the Stilo’s sturdiness is still felt in current Fiat products. Perhaps, 20 more years of reliable, Stilo-like cars will erase all memories of a certain Tony.

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Lexus Takes Gold In 2015 JD Power Dependability Study http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/lexus-takes-gold-2015-jd-power-dependability-study/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/lexus-takes-gold-2015-jd-power-dependability-study/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008050 For the fourth consecutive year, Lexus is tops among the brands ranked in JD Power’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study. The research group says owners of the premium brand’s offerings reported 89 problems per 100 vehicles. However, its parent company was bumped down to third place on the podium this year by Buick, the latter making […]

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Lexus RCF cliff, side

For the fourth consecutive year, Lexus is tops among the brands ranked in JD Power’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study.

The research group says owners of the premium brand’s offerings reported 89 problems per 100 vehicles. However, its parent company was bumped down to third place on the podium this year by Buick, the latter making a huge leap from fifth place in 2014 to take silver with 110 problems per 100 vehicles reported. Toyota had one more problem compared to Buick.

Among the rest, Cadillac took home fourth, while Honda and Porsche tied for fifth. Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Scion and Chevrolet round out the top 10 for 2015, while Land Rover and Fiat landed at the bottom of the list with 258 and 273 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively.

As for the problems themselves, most took issue with their vehicle’s Bluetooth and voice-recognition systems, followed by problems with the vehicle’s engine or transmission, the latter mostly focused on “automatic transmission hesitation and rough shifting.”

This year’s study surveyed over 34,000 original owners of 2012 models after three years of ownership, with the survey taking place between November and December of 2014.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Escape Titanium AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-ford-escape-titanium-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-ford-escape-titanium-awd/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994690 After only one brief stint in last week’s 2015 Ford Escape tester, I was already angry with this heavily optioned Titanium AWD specimen. The anger had nothing to do with our first drive to the other side of Halifax. And I wasn’t even in the Escape, let alone driving it, when my resentment blossomed. I […]

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2015 Ford Escape Titanium AWD redAfter only one brief stint in last week’s 2015 Ford Escape tester, I was already angry with this heavily optioned Titanium AWD specimen.

The anger had nothing to do with our first drive to the other side of Halifax. And I wasn’t even in the Escape, let alone driving it, when my resentment blossomed. I was shovelling our driveway during a lull in the blizzard that left New York in peace, hammered Boston, and slathered Nova Scotia’s capital with ice after a few inches of snow fell. With four vehicles jammed into our small driveway to avoid the on-street winter parking ban, the Escape’s tailgate insisted on opening of its own accord with frustrating frequency.


• USD As-Tested Price: $38,075

• Horsepower: 231 @ 5500 rpm

• Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 19 mpg


Armful of groceries? Yes, hands-free tailgate opening might then be useful, if you can maintain your balance while holding the grocery load in your right hand, perching the 15-month-old child on your left hip, and doing the jitterbug under the rear bumper.

But when you’re engaged in clearing a driveway of snow and a tailgate opens again and again and again… and again, allowing a large amount of blowing snow into the car, a shovel-activated tailgate becomes the worst bit of kit ever fitted to a modern car. As memory recalls, when a waving foot called upon the hands-free tailgate to open in our Ford C-Max test car two winters ago, it typically refused. Now, when I’m shovelling in a winter storm with keys to multiple cars in my pocket, the Escape’s tailgate becomes overzealous. What must the neighbours think?

2015 Ford Escape Titanium AWD red rearThankfully, during the week we spent with a 2015 Escape supplied to us by Ford Canada, nothing else spawned such irritability.

The Escape, now in the third model year of its second-generation, is not without lingering faults. MyFordTouch doesn’t really bother me, but needing to reach and turn my wrist into a Spiderman-like shape to use the lower portion of the screen isn’t cool. The upgraded Sony stereo never impressed. A number of interior bits, including the “leather-wrapped” steering wheel and the column-mounted stalks, are downmarket items appropriate for cars in another price spectrum, as are the levels of noise and vibration which make their way into the cabin. The defroster is painfully slow. 240 horsepower (231 on regular fuel) doesn’t feel as special as you thought 240 horsepower would feel in a small SUV because the horses are saddled with nearly 3800 pounds. Real-world fuel efficiency measured a disheartening 19 miles per gallon, hindered by the freshness of our Escape which travelled from the factory to our door. (The Escape is rated at 21 mpg in the city; 28 on the highway.) Worst among the Escape’s letdowns, overall interior space doesn’t come close to matching the Honda CR-V in which we sprawled earlier in January.

But a week of driving the 2015 Escape, with its torquey 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder and Euro Ford dynamics, made it easy to see why this is consistently America’s second-best-selling utility vehicle. To actually drive the Escape – not just to reside in it, but to engage yourself in the process – is to realize that pleasing on-road behaviour can be found in a high-riding crossover, even one that’s not made by a premium brand.

2015 Ford Escape Titanium AWD front boatThe ride/handling balance is wonderfully fine-tuned. The suspension, even on 19-inch wheels, masks the impact of harsh road imperfections while remaining sufficiently communicative for the driver to feel confident on a twisty road. It’s more nimble and tossable than the CR-V, but its hefty curb weight holds the Escape back from the eager feel of the Mazda CX-5, the last version of which we tested tipped the scales with 233 fewer pounds than this Ford. Steering feel is mostly absent, as it is in almost every new car on sale today, but the Escape’s rack is quick and consistent. Braking would be aided by a slightly more progressive pedal, and the 6-speed automatic could stand to sacrifice some of its smooth slushiness for more rapid shifts.

The Ford still ranks among the keen driver’s best choices in the small SUV/crossover category, even if the EcoBoost 2.0L doesn’t turn the small Escape into a pocket rocket.

At $38,075 as-tested (Titanium AWD Escapes start at $33,085), it’s also among the pricier candidates, though our example was certainly laden with tech gear. Ford’s Active Park Assist needs to work perfectly without fail, and it always has in my hands, or rather, free from my hands. Blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, proximity access, navigation, panoramic sunroof: it’s all here. The problem with an Escape that’s this loaded is the broad range of SUVs and crossovers available for the same money, many of which will suffer from an equipment standpoint but will more than make up for their poorer spec with extra usable space.

2015 Ford Escape Titanium interiorBut how many of them will drive more sweetly? If the space is sufficient for you – and it clearly is acceptable to hundreds of thousands of buyers each year – then the knowledge that other small SUVs offer more space for people and cargo is not terribly pertinent.

In that case, the Escape 2.0L EcoBoost is a charming device, especially if it possesses a lower level of equipment that wouldn’t cause it to be compared with its upmarket sibling, the Lincoln MKC. Especially if its tailgate remains firmly secured in the midst of a January nor’easter.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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New Apps, Infotainment Systems Turn Up At 2015 CES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-apps-infotainment-systems-turn-2015-ces/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-apps-infotainment-systems-turn-2015-ces/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=973610 Autonomous alien luxury pods and royalty-free hydrogen patents aren’t the only things coming onto the stage during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Today, we’ll show you the latest and greatest from BMW, FCA, Audi and Ford, with the help from our brothers and sisters over at AutoGuide. BMW introduced non-contact gesture controls […]

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FCA Uconnect Access Services

Autonomous alien luxury pods and royalty-free hydrogen patents aren’t the only things coming onto the stage during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Today, we’ll show you the latest and greatest from BMW, FCA, Audi and Ford, with the help from our brothers and sisters over at AutoGuide.

BMW introduced non-contact gesture controls for its Control Display touchscreen infotainment system, allowing drivers to input a given address with directed gestures made between the instrument panel and gear shift, among other tasks. Another system, Touch Command, will use a standard Samsung tablet to handle all infotainment and comfort functions, and provides wireless access to all onboard electronics for all passengers.

Over at FCA, the automaker debuted new additions to its Uconnect Access suite of apps: Vehicle Finder, Send Destination to Vehicle, Monthly Vehicle Report and Vehicle Health Alert. All four allow owners to keep tabs on their vehicle’s systems, easily navigate to a given destination, and know where their vehicle is at all times. The new suite will debut in H1 2015 on select FCA products equipped with either 8.4A or 8.4AN Uconnect systems.

Audi showed off the new interior of the next-gen Q7 — set to bow in Detroit next week as a 2016 model — to the media in attendance at the 2015 CES. The dashboard arrangement is derived from the TT, featuring a 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit display with 3D maps and other important information. An additional pop-up central display uses a rotary knob and touch-sensitive pad to operate, while two large, removable, Wi-Fi-enabled tablets mounted in the back of the front headrests provide navigation info and entertainment for those seated in back.

Finally, Ford has added on AccuWeather and Life360 to the AppLink suite of apps on-board the new, QNX-based Sync 3 system. The Life360 Sync 3 app has a special Drive Mode feature that sends text messages to a driver’s friends and family so that they know not to contact the user while driving, with a follow-up text sent upon arrival at the user’s destination. AccuWeather, meanwhile, will use GPS to give minute-by-minute weather forecasts to help drivers better deal with and plan around inclement weather.

BMW CES 2015 01 BMW CES 2015 02 BMW CES 2015 03 BMW CES 2015 04 Uconnect_Access_Smartphone_App_ Vehicle_Finder Send_Destination_to_Vehicle_FCA Monthly_Vehicle_Health_Report Audi Q7 CES 2015 01 Audi Q7 CES 2015 02 Audi Q7 CES 2015 03 Audi Q7 CES 2015 04 Ford CES 2015 01 Ford CES 2015 02 Ford CES 2015 03 Ford CES 2015 04

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Alfa Romeo To Build Spider On Own Platform, Mazda MX-5 To Fiat-Abarth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-build-spider-platform-mazda-mx-5-fiat-abarth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-build-spider-platform-mazda-mx-5-fiat-abarth/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963858 Alfa Romeo will be going its own way for its upcoming Spider, directing Mazda to take its 2016 MX-5 over to Fiat-Abarth instead. Car reports the new roadster will be “a derivative of project Giorgio,” per Alfa and Maserati brand boss Harald Wester. Giorgio is, of course, the RWD platform that will underpin many a […]

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Alfa Romeo will be going its own way for its upcoming Spider, directing Mazda to take its 2016 MX-5 over to Fiat-Abarth instead.

Car reports the new roadster will be “a derivative of project Giorgio,” per Alfa and Maserati brand boss Harald Wester. Giorgio is, of course, the RWD platform that will underpin many a new Alfa, including the expected 159 successor due early this coming summer.

As for the MX-5’s role in the matter, the platform will be heading to Fiat-Abarth, raising the possibility for a new Barchetta or stand-alone Abarth model to emerge from Mazda’s Hiroshima facility in the near future. Alfa’s Spider, however, will be made in Italy, per CEO Sergio Marchionne’s vision for the Alfa brand.

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Chrysler Group Now FCA US LLC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962041 Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC. The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA […]

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FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC.

The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA Group umbrella will follow in due time.

The changes won’t filter down into individual brands or marketing, so the B&B will still be able to buy a Fiat 500 or Chrysler Town & Country without seeing an FCA badge.

The move marks the first time in the U.S. subsidiary’s history without the Chrysler name, first given by its founder, Walter P. Chrysler, in 1925.

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Zetsche: There’s No Money In The EV Stand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/zetsche-theres-money-ev-stand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/zetsche-theres-money-ev-stand/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 11:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=941673 Though Daimler made $780 million off of its recent Tesla stake sale, CEO Dieter Zetsche says there’s no money in the EV stand. AutoblogGreen reports Daimler is leasing its Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive for €399 ($498 USD) a month for 36 months with a down payment of €8,473 ($10,582) due at signing in European showrooms. […]

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Though Daimler made $780 million off of its recent Tesla stake sale, CEO Dieter Zetsche says there’s no money in the EV stand.

AutoblogGreen reports Daimler is leasing its Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive for €399 ($498 USD) a month for 36 months with a down payment of €8,473 ($10,582) due at signing in European showrooms. Were Zetsche to have his way, however, those payments would be higher:

You can reasonably say that nobody today is making a battery-powered vehicle that’s economically viable in its own right. Manufacturers will not see a return within a reasonable time on the billions they’re investing now.

Zetsche’s remarks echo those of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, who would rather spend $10,000 on a more profitable product than lose said amount every time a Fiat 500e is sold. On the other hand, Nissan and Tesla — the latter having worked with Daimler on the B-Class Electric Drive — have found their respective gambles paying off thus far, though neither are planning to show their hands just yet.

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2015 Ram 700 Newest Entrant In Mexican Compact Truck Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ram-700-newest-entrant-mexican-compact-truck-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ram-700-newest-entrant-mexican-compact-truck-market/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=939625 For some, the Chevrolet Colorado’s “technology and stuff” is just what they need in a truck. For others, however, the mid-size pickup’s footprint is still a tad too big. If you call Mexico your home, Ram has just what you need. According to Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah, the Fiat Strada-based 2015 Ram 700 hails from […]

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2015 Ram 700

For some, the Chevrolet Colorado’s “technology and stuff” is just what they need in a truck. For others, however, the mid-size pickup’s footprint is still a tad too big.

If you call Mexico your home, Ram has just what you need.

According to Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah, the Fiat Strada-based 2015 Ram 700 hails from Brazil — where the Strada is also assembled — and battles against the Chevrolet Tornado and Volkswagen Saveiro in the Mexican market. Both single- and extended-cab versions are available, beginning at $14,000 USD for the stripper model, $18,000 for the Adventure trim (which also offers a locking-diff and digital inclinometer for off-roading adventures).

Under the bonnet, a blast from the past moves the front wheels: the 115-horsepower 1.6-liter Fiat E.torQ. The four-pot 16-valve SOHC mill is derived from the Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth Neon’s 2-liter unit, and has been in production as the E.TorQ since 2011.

Regarding its name, the 700 was planned to be called 750, but instead took the name to identify a payload capacity of 705 kilograms, or approximately 1,500 pounds.

As for the possibility of seeing the 700 in the United States, Ram and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles haven’t said much on the subject. Though FCA could get around the Chicken Tax by assembling U.S.-bound units in Mexico if need be, low fuel prices and consumer demand outside of enthusiast circles are another matter.

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Paris 2014: Fiat 500X Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-fiat-500x-images-leaked-prior-unveiling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-fiat-500x-images-leaked-prior-unveiling/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=923289 The Jeep Renegade’s Italian sibling was revealed at today’s Paris Auto Show media day, and now Fiat dealers can breathe a sigh of relief: they’ll be getting a product that has a good chance of being competitive in North America. The subcompact crossover rides on the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, and may likely […]

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The Jeep Renegade’s Italian sibling was revealed at today’s Paris Auto Show media day, and now Fiat dealers can breathe a sigh of relief: they’ll be getting a product that has a good chance of being competitive in North America.

The subcompact crossover rides on the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, and may likely share the same 1.4-liter turbo-four as the Renegade. Chrysler’s 2.4-liter Tigershark engine will also be available, and all-wheel drive versions will be paired to a nine-speed automatic gearbox, along with the corporate all-wheel drive system. Front-drive versions will get a six-speed dual-clutch auto or six-speed manual gearbox.

Fiat-500X-1 Fiat-500X-2 Fiat-500X-3 Fiat-500X-4

 

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Capsule Review: 2015 Fiat Uno (Brazil Domestic Market) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914930 Launched at a time when the new car market in Brazil is relatively stagnant, the new Fiat Novo Uno is causing less of a stir compared to when the round square themed Uno was launched four years ago. There are no lines at dealers and people’s attentions are divided among upstart competitors like the Ford Ka […]

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Launched at a time when the new car market in Brazil is relatively stagnant, the new Fiat Novo Uno is causing less of a stir compared to when the round square themed Uno was launched four years ago. There are no lines at dealers and people’s attentions are divided among upstart competitors like the Ford Ka and Volkswagen up! The Uno had to come hard in order to remain a relevant player, capable of attracting the new Brazilian consumer that demands more in terms of comfort, finishing, content and safety.

Can this Uno face off the competition and remain among the top sellers in Brazil?

With the demise of the Mille, Uno nameplate sales took a hit, though the car kept its top 3 ranking. However, new competition kept underscoring how outdated the car was. First, the Asian competition appeared; the  Toyota Etios (mechanically efficient) and Hyundai HB20 ( great design) showed how dated the Uno was. Then, Chevrolet conjured up its Onix (mobile connectivity), Renault launched the Sandero (size, content). Each one traded on its own merits, but all were priced higher than the Uno and were not direct competitors (Fiat has the Palio to face those down). Of late though, the almost simultaneous emergence of Ka and up!, both directly aimed at the Uno, in size and pricing, left the Uno looking downtrodden and old.

Looking at the car from the outside I couldn’t avoid feeling disappointed, as I positively adored the outgoing model’s design. The hood now has a heavy crease running through it, and the headlights lost some of the square-ness that has forever been part of the Uno’s heritage. It has lost some of the playfulness of the original design and has a more aggressive and generic visage, vaguely reminiscent of some small Asian cars. It also makes concessions to modern sensibilities and the bumpers look more aggressive and pronounced, lending the car a more robust look that will appeal to many. On the Sporting model, the bumpers are frankly ridiculous, but again remit to something vaguely Asian and surely Evo and Imprezza fans will not mind. Plus, it does have a double central chromes exhaust tips and square wheels, I’ll give it that!

Spending more time and taking in the details, it becomes clear Fiat did sweat it out. The front bumper design gives it a lower stance, the backlights have a dazzling mini squares motif that looks novel and interesting, and the frontal section is now highlighted by being painted black. The side mirrors have a new shape and include small, tasteful, square blinkers. The wipers have new stalks and true flat blades. The handles are new and include the key lock. I’m sure I’d would have found more had I spent more time, but enough of Uno arcana.

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Stepping inside is where we see Fiat really spent (some) money. It now has a design reminiscent of what FCA has been lavishing on American Chrysler products and seen for the first time in a Fiat. Attractive, it works well in this small car and suggests modernity. The steering wheel is new and has buttons to control many functions. The plastics are better than ever, with textures and splashes of color, highly-configurable and dependent on version. It does seem Fiat understands that Brazilian private buyers are not interested in absolutely Spartan cars anymore. To do this, Fiat added hearty doses of interactive technology and connectivity. This was made possible because the new Uno sports a more advanced electronic architecture and as such has more computing power and can offer features like color display in the instrument cluster with many more functions than before, automatic left mirror tilt down when reverse is engaged, creep function and even an OEM back up camera. Fabrics can now be seen on the doors and in the back, the fold down seats can optionally be 60/40, in which case it offers a three point seat belt even for the middle passenger, a first for a car in this segment in Brazil. Finally, it offers three headrests in the back, which is, unfortunately, something most competitors don’t.

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As before, since it’s the same car, internal roominess is not that great, especially in light of the new launches. The seat cushions are still short and don’t offer enough thigh support, which can be tiring on long trips though, in Fiat tradition, it is placed high and offers a good, upright seating position. The steering wheel is slightly skewed, and the pedals are placed rather tightly. The trunk is now smallish for the category, beating only the Ka’s. However, all the controls are light and easy to use (and yes, durable) and the Uno offers some equipment still rare on other Brazilian cars like an internal rear hatch release mechanism and gas cap opener, while power window commands are now on the doors as ergonomics recommends.  All in all, an agreeable place to spend time that though configured for five, is more comfortable for four.

Mechanically the car does not stand out to the enthusiast anymore. The engines are holdovers from the previous cars and their age is showing, especially when compared to Ford’s and VW’s spiffy new three cylinders. The Fire EVO 1.0 is good for about 75 horses, while the 1.4 Fire EVO puts forth 88. Though a hefty total of the torque is available at low RPMs, both engines offer low top speeds (the smaller unit doesn’t crack 100 mph) and slow 0 to 60 times. While both Ka and up! 1.0s do this feat at around 14 seconds, the 1.0 Uno takes more than 18, while the 1.4 is more competitive. Fuel economy is average to good for the class and driven carefully can achieve high numbers. The 1.0 at least feels good and is a rounder engine, while the 1.4’s behavior is squarer (it doesn’t like to rev). Fiat has addressed these problems in a roundabout way by adding more sound insulation and new engine mounts. Also, being an in-line 4 cylinder, the vibrations noticed in the three cylinder engines is absent and the noise is better, but time moves on and most competitors’ motors, 3 or 4 cylinders, are surely better. I know they’re here Fiat, so where are the MultiAirs?

Driving the car, it is feels soft and comfortable. Nevertheless, Fiat has changed the specifications for shock absorbers and added insulation. It has also reinforced the Uno’s underlying structure to make it pass Latin NCap’s testing. This has not only added safety, but also affected the car’s behavior as the car is a bit heavier, but more planted and feels more solid. Around town, it is probably still the most comfortable in its class, being extraordinarily light and pliant. Out on the road, however, the car rolls too much. Of course, a more experienced Fiat driver knows this and knows he can force it some more. At that point, it settles down nicely and takes curves well. Most however, let off at the first sign of roll, making it more of a cruiser than a canyon carver. The new competition, specifically the Ka and up!, show that these relative low limits are not necessary as they combine comfort and sportiness much more convincingly.

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Finally, what may make Brazilians still pick the Uno in great numbers is the new added-in technology. As mentioned, the new electronic harness permits more electronic prowess. The 1.4s can be had with Fiat’s Dualogic single clutch automated transmission that makes do without a lever. In its place, there are buttons (and vague references to Ferrari technology in Uno literature) and shift paddles. In the Fiat line, this is the best implementation yet. Faster than before, shifts are done more suavely and the increased intelligence allows the unit to hold a gear when it perceives the driver’s intention to gun it. Though it doesn’t have a true hill holder function, it does have a creep function that will allow the car to slowly move forward at lower speeds and even on some inclines, which will of course help launch. Though a technology that is rougher than true automatics and double clutch automated systems, its simpler cost and ease of use is gaining ground and automating even the smallest Brazilian cars.

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The Uno is also the first small car that offers a Start and Stop system in Brazil. In fact, it will be the first car in the world that uses such a system even when running on ethanol. Fully automatic, it turns the car off when in neutral and stopped. It turns the car back on in 0.4 seconds when the clutch is depressed (it will not be offered, for now, on the Dualogic-equipped cars) and the functioning is quite seamless, so much so that a distracted driver might not even notice. It also re-fires the engine if the car is stopped for over 165 seconds, if the battery is stressed by high use of accessories, if there is a loss in braking power and if the car moves at more than 3 km/h. It won’t work in the warm up phase or if the battery is at under 75 percent capacity. It will also fire the car up again if the air conditioning is on and the engine is stopped for more than 60 seconds. Thankfully, as even that measure may not be enough in a hot country like Brazil, the system can easily be turned off at the flick of a button. INMETRO, the official Brazilian weight, measurements and balances agency rates the system’s impact on fuel economy at just 3 percent while Fiat claims as much as 20 can be had in cities like São Paulo at rush hour where traffic doesn’t move.

That’s the Fiat Uno then. A market leader under pressure by newer rivals. Adding a touch of razzle dazzle technology, some piecemeal mechanical improvements, a sprinkling of safety enhancements and a completely new interior, the Uno adds on to its strengths in the South American markets it is sold (reliability, ease of repair, economy, colors and beaucoup personalization possibilities). Though now outclassed mechanically, it still has what it takes to keep selling. Would I buy one now? Only if I got a spanking good deal or intended to keep the car for a very long time. The use of proven technology and engines virtually guarantee ease of mind, even to the new Brazilian consumer.

 

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Fiat Sets Date Of Shareholder Meeting For August 1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fiat-sets-date-of-shareholder-meeting-for-august-1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fiat-sets-date-of-shareholder-meeting-for-august-1/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858633 Own any shares in Fiat S.p.A.? The automaker just announced it will hold its next general assembly of all shareholders August 1, where the topic of discussion will be the approval of the merger of Fiat with Chrysler Group to become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. Reuters reports shareholders will also be asked to approve the […]

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A new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sign is pictured after being unveiled at Chrysler Group World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan

Own any shares in Fiat S.p.A.? The automaker just announced it will hold its next general assembly of all shareholders August 1, where the topic of discussion will be the approval of the merger of Fiat with Chrysler Group to become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Reuters reports shareholders will also be asked to approve the merger of Fiat with its wholly owned subsidiary Netherlands Fiat Investments N.V. prior to the FCA vote. The meeting would allow CEO Sergio Marchionne to list FCA on the New York Stock Exchange by October at the earliest.

Those who approve FCA’s existence will receive one FCA common share for every Fiat share they hold, while those against will have the right of withdrawal for the next 15 days, with the redemption price set to €7.727 ($10.51 USD) per Fiat share.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846905 J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles. Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. […]

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2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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Rental Review: 2014 Fiat 500L “Easy” FWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/rental-review-2014-fiat-500l-easy-fwd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/rental-review-2014-fiat-500l-easy-fwd/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 10:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=845017 “Cheap and cheerful.” It’s a phrase the Brit mags like to use all the time to describe poverty-priced cars that attempt to use design and color to mask their humble aspirations. Think Scion xB compared to Toyota Tercel — but nobody does the C&C music factory like the Europeans. The original Twingo set the template, […]

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20140615_195842

“Cheap and cheerful.” It’s a phrase the Brit mags like to use all the time to describe poverty-priced cars that attempt to use design and color to mask their humble aspirations. Think Scion xB compared to Toyota Tercel — but nobody does the C&C music factory like the Europeans. The original Twingo set the template, but it’s had many a riff played on it since then.

Now we have a cheap-and-cheerful from a Euro manufacturer, built in Serbia, with as much design and flair as you can stand. Whether it’s the worst car for sale in America or one of the best depends entirely on how cheerful you need your cheap to be.

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We’re reviewing a Kia Soul in these pages today, so it was both lucky and good than I rented one for last weekend’s WRL race at Texas World Speedway. I have )plenty of experience driving a Kia Soul in Houston. No, wait, I meant to post this review, the other one is fiction. In any event, the Soul also pretends to be cheap-and-cheerful. I say “pretends” because it isn’t really that cheap anymore and it’s approaching respectability in its design and execution. The deal Kia is currently making with the American public is this: you pay about what you’d pay for a Honda, give or take a bit, and we’ll throw in some warranty and some Audi-derived flair to help you get over the brand stigma. (Yes, I know who designs Kias now — Peter Schreyer.)

The 500L, on the other hand — well, when I first sat in the thing at the Hertz office I couldn’t believe what an utter piece of shit it was. Like a Toyota Corolla and about everything else nowadays, it has a three-rotating-ring climate control system. Unlike with the Toyota, however, in this car the rings wobble. They’re so loose I worried that they would fall off. Adjusting the driver’s seat gave me another case of the wobbles — the hollow-molded handles to adjust the seatback and height gave no sensation of being firmly attached to anything at all. The handbrake was bizarrely shaped and the flash lines from the plastic molding were sharply evident. There are no manual door lock actuators on the doors themselves. That would cost money. The shifter found “D” with a very Italian vagueness.

And then the engine quit.

For at least five seconds, I just sat there with my mouth open. As someone who races a variety of Lemons-spec cars across the country and who once owned a MA href=”http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/the-red-marquis-the-redheaded-girl-and-the-red-mist/”>1980 Mercury Marquis, I am no stranger to the phenomenon known as “failure to proceed”, but in a 2014-model automobile with 4000 miles on the clock?

I re-selected Park, twisted the switchblade key in the ignition, and the car caught before dying yet again!

A third time was the charm, but throughout the weekend, the Fiat would often indicate it’s reluctance to run in the ninety-five-degree Texas weather by cutting out once or twice when started cold, always starting by the third try. Okay. We’re rolling. Time to take a look around.

Although the 500L shares nothing with the infamous Multipla wide-body CUV, the long dashboard, multiple fishbowl windows in front of the driver, and the general turret-toppedness of the thing make it hard to believe such is the case. Really, it’s a relative of the upcoming Renegade. Think Caliber to the Patriot and you’ll have the idea, sort of. There’s a lot of glass, some of it wavy, and it’s all pretty far away from you in all directions. You want Euro? You got it. This is how our nominal superiors on the Continent imagine high-seat cars, as compared to something like a modern Tahoe where you get the cockpit of an Impala mounted to the frame of an Iowa-class in an arrangement that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a Star Destroyer.

I slapped the thing into Drive again and noticed that, as is also a Euro market practice, the red-LCD display between the dials showed which gear I’d selected. This is a nice feature, one I remember with pleasure from my Phaetons. You get “D4″ or “D6″ or “D1″ instead of “D”. If you don’t like being surprised by shifting, it’s good to have. It’s also useful because when you’re low-speed cruising through town you can accurately estimate whether you’ll need to press for kickdown in order to make a move in traffic. Already in third? Probably okay. If the transmission has drifted up to fifth, you’d better ask for a shift.

Particularly if, as is the case here, you’re asking 1.4L of light-pressured turbocharged four-cylinder to motivate 3,203 pounds with just 160 horsepower. The Fiat 500L will never be confused with an acceptably rapid automobile and such is its lassitude that even I, who just got a six-point speeding ticket in another turbocharged Euro-mobile last week, frequently found myself dawdling along at 65mph on the 75mph Texas freeways. It’s clearly never in a hurry. The good news is that the engine’s relatively flat torque curve approximates a big-cube four-banger like the Chrysler 2.4 pretty well and it’s never dangerous in a merging situation. Hilariously, the twin-clutch transmission allows the thing to “brap” a bit when it’s in a hurry, just like a GTI. Again, you want Euro, you got it.

How’s it handle? It definitely does. My plans to take it around Texas World Speedway were canceled because my flight arrived late-ish and therefore I couldn’t get both this and the car I was actually going to race around the course in the allotted time, but hey, on the street it’s dynamically competent. To some degree, the 500L’s abilities in the steer-stop department are masked by the form factor and the seating. If you had a car that put up these same numbers but sat you on the ground in the manner of, say, a previous-generation Civic, you’d be quite pleased. It’s just that being up in the fishbowl makes the whole enterprise seem a bit stupid. I’m pretty sure this thing would dust most CUVs around a track, if you really wanted to make it happen.
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As befits a “Fiatsler” product, the 500L has a uConnect center screen. Right now, if you buy one from dealer stock, you’ll get a better uConnect than this one, free of charge, and it will include navigation. This one’s okay, however, offering the same virtues you get in a 300C. (Incidentally, I am the only major TTAC contributor who doesn’t think uConnect is better than MyFordTouch, so take this with a grain of salt.) It was a little picky about reconnecting to my Galaxy upon startup, but overall the Bluetooth integration was solid. The sound quality was less so. Not a lot of juice in the amp.

Cargo and passenger space, as you’d expect, is excellent and from my experience it matches what’s available elsewhere in the segment. The rear seats are as comfortable as the fronts, which is to say pretty good and supportive over long drives. I covered nearly 800 miles in three days during my drive, having to fold my fractured frame into a couple of Kirkey race seats in the intervals between trips, and I was never in any pain or discomfort. It’s a good way to travel. The A/C, despite feeling desperately flimsy in operation, was up to the demands of cooling this very glazing-intensive car in Texas heat.

Overall, the 500L appears to be a very nice design put together in completely slipshod fashion. I was prepared to give it a bit of a diss-track review. The lousy quality and will-it-run business made it easily the worst car I’ve rented this year or last, in plain functional terms. As I was preparing my notes, however, I took the time to build my test vehicle in FIAT’s configuator.

This, as the say, changed everything.

Equipped as my “Easy” DCT model was, net price before discounts was $21,095. Which means out the door for under twenty grand. Were I willing to take a six-speed manual transmission over the DCT — would I be? You think so? — the net-net would be mid-nineteen grand. Compare that to a Honda CR-V EX with similar equipment at $25,320 or a Ford Escape at what is probably, given that company’s current pricing strategy, $118,255. For that money, I’d get navigation and a suite of other upgrades if I took it from dealer stock, which makes the real price gap between this and the competition an easy seven grand.

Cheap indeed.

At that price, I’ve changed my mind. If you can trade build quality away for a double helping of design whimsy, and you’d like to save something like thirty percent of the purchase price, the 500L is recommended with reservations. And those reservations are: you didn’t pay Honda money, it doesn’t look like the God-awful CR-V, don’t expect it to run forever with no problems. You say you want a Euro car? You got it. Just remember that it’s not Japanese.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ London Headquarters To Focus On Corporate Finance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/fiat-chrysler-automobiles-london-headquarters-to-focus-on-corporate-finance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/fiat-chrysler-automobiles-london-headquarters-to-focus-on-corporate-finance/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 11:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=827618 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ new headquarters in London, England will be as small as many Silicon Valley startups, with a staff of 50 mostly focused on finance. Automotive News Europe reports FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and Fiat Group chairman John Elkann will have a home in London, with FCA COO Richard Palmer possibly having a place […]

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Fiat 500 in London

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ new headquarters in London, England will be as small as many Silicon Valley startups, with a staff of 50 mostly focused on finance.

Automotive News Europe reports FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and Fiat Group chairman John Elkann will have a home in London, with FCA COO Richard Palmer possibly having a place there as well. Though no new hiring is planned, the automaker hopes to pull more finance employees from its Asia Pacific and Latin American regions to its headquarters, where most of the work will involve treasury operations.

The move to London also means tax savings for FCA; whereas Fiat paid 31.4 percent in corporate taxes to Italy while Chrysler paid 35 percent to the United States, the Italo-American company will pay only 20 percent for its part of filling the Queen’s coffers. This strategy has come under fire from both sides of the Atlantic, with feelings of betrayal on the part of Italians due to history, and on Americans due to tax dollars used to rescue Chrysler in 2009.

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Marchionne’s Grand Vision For FCA Faces Hard Financial Road To Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817858 Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision. Automotive News Europe reports a large part of […]

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Sergio Marchionne - FCA

Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision.

Automotive News Europe reports a large part of the problem for the plan, according to Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton, is debt:

Much as we admire the ambition and think elements are achievable… it is hard to find conviction on the financing of the plan. Fiat is weighed down with huge debt, burdened by financing costs and is only thinly profitable. It’s (sic) cost of capital is huge.

Warburton adds FCA’s grand plan and its potential capital expenditure and R&D appear to be unaffordable and not prudent for investors, stating the company would need “a capital raise” for any part of the plan to pan out.

Aside from its debt, FCA also faces sales challenges from markets that are peaking or slowing down, with the European market being the biggest drag upon the automaker. However, independent analyst Marianne Keller said that with the recovery now taking place in Europe, paired with North American profits and a strong Jeep brand, Marchionne could “pull it off”; Marchionne himself announced during the five-year plan’s unveiling that he was considering a mandatory convertible bond to bring the needed financing for the plan.

Finally, FCA’s Q1 2014 results — a net loss of 319 million euros compared to a net profit of 31 million euros the year before — serve as a sign for both the company and its investors that FCA has more hard road ahead, a view best summed up by Macquarie Group analyst Jens Schattner:

If it was so easy just to launch new products to be successful in this industry, why wouldn’t everybody do exactly the same.

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Shudder To Think: New Transmissions, Bad Friends and the DaimlerChrysler Merger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/shudder-to-think-new-transmissions-bad-friends-and-the-daimlerchrysler-merger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/shudder-to-think-new-transmissions-bad-friends-and-the-daimlerchrysler-merger/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 20:38:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817698 I never would’ve known about the WA850/NAG1 transmission if it weren’t for that dead-beat roommate I had in Miami. It was desperate times for Chrysler and myself —we both just needed a friend. 16 years ago today, the Chrysler Group found an abusively negligent partner in Daimler AG. The “merger of equals” proved to be […]

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Dodge Challenger chromed T-shifter automatic transmission knob

I never would’ve known about the WA850/NAG1 transmission if it weren’t for that dead-beat roommate I had in Miami. It was desperate times for Chrysler and myself —we both just needed a friend.

16 years ago today, the Chrysler Group found an abusively negligent partner in Daimler AG. The “merger of equals” proved to be anything but, as the German camp rapidly oscillated between ignoring the American’s input and engaging in full-blown Teutonic pedantry. Rumor has it they even insulted the American’s taste in typeface by forcing them to get new business cards.

My friendship wasn’t nearly as toxic. I had been living in Miami for a few months, but had failed to adapt to the social scene. He was also a transplant from the North Atlantic so he understood my pain. He had friends that I admired, so I stuck by him. Despite his professed love for the BMX bike and only the BMX bike, he was in possession of a hand-me-down 2003 Mercedes-Benz E500. This example was a former Enron fleet-car his mother had purchased at auction in late 2006, just months before Daimler offloaded their American bedfellow. He didn’t keep up with the maintenance; it was in poor shape but I loved it. It was everything my Miata wasn’t: heavy, powerful and smooth.

It was equipped with the WA850 transmission, or as it is more commonly known, the 5G-Tronic. A five-speed automatic of Mercedes design, one of Daimler’s first acts after the merger was to force this part on Chrysler. It was clearly a superior gearbox than Chrysler’s ubiquitous 545RFE, but it was the principle of the matter. Chrysler was saddled with what they perceived to be needless logistical complications. The official Chrysler designation for the part was “New Automatic Gearbox Version 1” or NAG1. Very funny Chrysler.

In theory it was an excellent transmission, but there were serious qualms about its reliability on American roads. It wasn’t about road quality; rather it was its needy maintenance schedule and complex service that was out of line with American ownership habits. Anything less than perfectly precise handling by a tech and the thing would shudder and shake for the rest of its days.

Like Chrysler, My friend had forced something on me as well: the pointless pursuit of fun at a time in my life when I should have been saving money, exercising, and improving my craft. An apt comparison because like the WA580, a life of partying works on paper, but without the discipline to perform proper maintenance you are end up shuddering and leaking fluid in public.

The Daimler-Chrysler merger was a clear failure, and so was my friendship. Both partnerships could’ve been successful, but they required more compromise and hard work than either party was prepared for. That’s not to say the respective mergers were complete failures. Chrysler walked away with an excellent transmission that’s still in use today, and I learned how to have fun and not take myself so seriously. What we both learned was that in business like life, you can only rely on yourself for meaningful improvement.

 

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Smaller Jeep To Slot Beneath Renegade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/smaller-jeep-to-slot-beneath-renegade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/smaller-jeep-to-slot-beneath-renegade/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766177 Though the Jeep Renegade already bowed at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, the off-road brand has plans for not only a fullsize SUV similar to the discontinued Commander, but an A segment SUV slotted beneath the Renegade, as well. Auto Express reports the A segment vehicle could possibly be underpinned by the next-generation Fiat 500, […]

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Jeep-Renegade-18

Though the Jeep Renegade already bowed at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, the off-road brand has plans for not only a fullsize SUV similar to the discontinued Commander, but an A segment SUV slotted beneath the Renegade, as well.

Auto Express reports the A segment vehicle could possibly be underpinned by the next-generation Fiat 500, though would face greater engineering challenges than those faced by the Renegade — built upon Fiat’s “small-wide” archecture underpinning the upcoming 500X — to make it Rubicon-ready, as Jeep boss Mike Manley explained:

We couldn’t make an SUV off of “small wide” as you can’t get the ground clearance. It was completely changed by Jeep engineers so now it’s “small wide 4×4″ architecture.

The A segment Jeep could also aid in bringing the brand into compliance with increasing CO2 emissions standards, though the improvement drive — much like the vehicle itself — will be a long, hard road to hew:

There’s relentless pressure to reduce CO2 and there’s much more for us to do. We’re trying to stay away from complexity and improvements are slowly coming.

Meanwhile, Manley’s focus is toward the Grand Wagoneer, which will slot above the Grand Cherokee. The fullsize SUV will boast room for seven and “be bigger than the old Commander” made between 2006 and 2010.

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Fiat, Abarth Likely To Receive Mazda-Based Roadster Over Alfa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/fiat-abarth-likely-to-receive-mazda-based-roadster-over-alfa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/fiat-abarth-likely-to-receive-mazda-based-roadster-over-alfa/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 19:19:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764089 Long rumored to wear the Alfa Romeo badge, the next-generation Mazda MX-5 may instead don a Fiat or Abarth necklace in 2015 if Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has the last word. Automotive News reports sources close to the project stated product planners from Mazda and Fiat met recently to discuss a roadster based […]

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Long rumored to wear the Alfa Romeo badge, the next-generation Mazda MX-5 may instead don a Fiat or Abarth necklace in 2015 if Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has the last word.

Automotive News reports sources close to the project stated product planners from Mazda and Fiat met recently to discuss a roadster based upon the MX-5. Fiat’s planners are looking for a way to maintain the supply partnership deal with the Japanese automaker, lest the break-up leave Fiat in the red through 2016, when they hope to return to the black in their native Europe.

As for why, Marchionne has proclaimed that no Alfa will be made outside of Italy so long as he is CEO, a statement reinforced as recently as the 2014 Detroit Auto Show; Marchionne plans to head FCA until 2017 at the earliest.

The so-called heir to the throne abdicated by the Fiat Duetto Spider made famous by the film “The Graduate,” the Italo-Japanese roadster may find a home with Fiat or Abarth, too underpowered be paired with Ferrari or Maserati, while Lancia retreats into its home market as a one-model brand by the end of 2014.

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Marichonne Still Seeking Location For New Minivans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/marichonne-still-seeking-location-for-new-minivans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/marichonne-still-seeking-location-for-new-minivans/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 11:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=741433 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV boss Sergio Marichonne, in talks with federal and provincial governments in Canada for loans to help prepare their factories in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario for new vehicle production, may come to a decision about moving forward with plans for where new minivans will be built by the end of March 2014. […]

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2013 Chrysler Town and Country

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV boss Sergio Marichonne, in talks with federal and provincial governments in Canada for loans to help prepare their factories in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario for new vehicle production, may come to a decision about moving forward with plans for where new minivans will be built by the end of March 2014.

Bloomberg reports that parent company Fiat is “not even close” to resolving those talks, with Marichonne hinting that he may take his business elsewhere, such as the United States or Mexico, if Canada won’t have them any longer:

“We’ve got to decide whether you want this or not. And if you do, I’ll be more than willing to stay. Global footprints are global footprints. I’m not using this as a threat, but there are some parts of the world that are desperately looking for capacity utilization, where infrastructure exists, is in place and is operational.”

The incentives sought for the new minivan production have been reported by Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail to be around $637 million, which would help Marichonne’s vision of an FCA capable of challenging larger automakers such as General Motors and Volkswagen.

Meanwhile, Canada is bolstering its Automotive Innovation Fund over the next two years by an additional $456 million (USD, or $500 million Canadian) over the $288 million (USD) already invested in six projects since 2008. The money is meant to attract all automakers in Canada beyond Chrysler, such as Ford, whose next-generation Edge will be built in Oakville, Ontario following a $640 million revamp by the automaker, and a $65 million investment by the Canadian government.

Though most of the Fiat-Chrysler merger has been worked out, Marichonne is doing all he can to remove distractions around the decision as to where new minivans will be constructed:

“We’re trying to remove all politics and noise around this issue. It’s a very simple investment call. We’re ready to go. We’re at the table. The car is ready. We’re ready to build minivans. Somewhere.”

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Moody’s Cuts Fiat’s Rating Down Due To Earnings Worries, Outlook http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/moodys-cuts-fiats-rating-down-due-to-earnings-worries-outlook/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/moodys-cuts-fiats-rating-down-due-to-earnings-worries-outlook/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 16:18:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=740041 Citing weak results in 2013 and guidance challenges for 2014, investment ratings agency Moody’s has cut Fiat’s rating from B3a to B1, four notches below investment grade. Automotive News reports that the rating was decided upon by the agency after placing the automaker under review for a possible downgrade back in the opening days of […]

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2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Citing weak results in 2013 and guidance challenges for 2014, investment ratings agency Moody’s has cut Fiat’s rating from B3a to B1, four notches below investment grade.

Automotive News reports that the rating was decided upon by the agency after placing the automaker under review for a possible downgrade back in the opening days of 2014 just after Fiat struck a deal to take full control of Chrysler for $4.35 billion. In turn, the B1 rating for Fiat means the automaker will have a harder time securing much-needed financing in order to right the ship for their loss-making European operations.

Aside from the aforementioned reasons cited for the downgrade, Moody’s lead analyst for Fiat Falk Frey added that

“We have downgraded Fiat’s ratings following its weaker-than-expected performance in fiscal year 2013 and our view that the company faces significant challenges in terms of achieving its outlook guidance for the current fiscal year.”

 “We are also concerned that Fiat may not be able to offset any further profitability deterioration in its Latin American operation through anticipated improvements in other regions and in its luxury and performance division,” 

Other factors in the downgrade include Fiat’s overreliance on the European market — still weak from the Great Recession — rising price pressures, a lack of major new models coming down the ramp in 2014, and overcapacity in Fiat’s home market.

Although Fiat and Chrysler merged not too long ago, Moody’s will keep the former duo’s ratings separate for the foreseeable future. The agency also said Fiat’s rating’s outlook overall has improved from negative to stable.

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One-Time Tax Gain Nets Chrysler $1.6 Billion In Q4 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/one-time-tax-gain-nets-chrysler-1-6-billion-in-q4-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/one-time-tax-gain-nets-chrysler-1-6-billion-in-q4-2013/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=727898 The American half of the newly dubbed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a net income of $1.6 billion in Q4 2013, the majority of which came from a one-time tax gain of $962 million. Automotive News reports that revenue in the fourth quarter for Chrysler advanced 24 percent to $21.4 billion, while total revenue for the […]

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FCA - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The American half of the newly dubbed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a net income of $1.6 billion in Q4 2013, the majority of which came from a one-time tax gain of $962 million.

Automotive News reports that revenue in the fourth quarter for Chrysler advanced 24 percent to $21.4 billion, while total revenue for the outgoing year totaled $72.1 billion, up 10 percent from 2012’s $65.8 billion. Meanwhile, the total adjusted net income in 2013 for the brand came out to $1.8 billion, $2.8 billion unadjusted.

Within the next four to six weeks, Chrysler’s 37,200 unionized hourly employees will receive profit-sharing checks to the tune of $2,500, with an extra $1,000 split into two awards for quality and performance to be distributed in June and December, respectively. Some individual plants will also add to the pot based on their own quality and efficiency goals.

Regarding market share, Chrysler’s home market gained two-tenths of a percentage point to 11.6 percent in 2013 on the backs of 1.8 million units sold in the United States, an increase of 9 percent driven by the brand’s redesigned truck and SUV lines. Globally, 2.6 million vehicles in 2013 were delivered, including those made for parent company Fiat.

As far as cash on-hand and debt are concerned, Chrysler reported a nest egg of $13.3 billion with $12.3 billion in gross industrial debt; in 2012, the brand held $11.6 billion in cash and $12.6 billion in debt. The bottom line marks the first time Chrysler held more cash than debt since the Italo-American marriage was consummated before the U.S. federal government back in 2009.

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Turbos, Diesels Rule Top 10 Engine List in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678850 ‘Tis the season for year-end Top 10 lists celebrating and lamenting all things in the world of life, and the automotive industry is no exception. Ward’s Automotive has announced its list of the 10 best engines for 2014, and it’s a turbodiesel-intercooled festival of power this year. The winners on the 20th anniversary of this […]

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Audi 3.0 TFSI Engine

‘Tis the season for year-end Top 10 lists celebrating and lamenting all things in the world of life, and the automotive industry is no exception. Ward’s Automotive has announced its list of the 10 best engines for 2014, and it’s a turbodiesel-intercooled festival of power this year.

The winners on the 20th anniversary of this list are as follows:

  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V6 (Audi S5)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I6 (BMW 535d)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC V6 (Ram 1500 EcoDiesel)
  • 83 kW Electric Motor (Fiat 500e)
  • 1.0L EcoBoost DOHC I3 (Ford Fiesta)
  • 2.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I4 (Chevrolet Cruze Diesel)
  • 6.2L OHV V8 (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray)
  • 3.5L SOHC V6 (Honda Accord)
  • 2.7L DOHC H6 boxer (Porsche Cayman)
  • 1.8L Turbocharged DOHC I4 (Volkswagen Jetta)

Of note, Ford’s three-pot EcoBoost marks the first time an automaker won a spot on the list with only three cylinders, while Fiat scores a first-time win with its 83 kW electric motor found in the 500e. On the other end, only two engines from last year’s list returned — Audi’s 3.0-liter TFSI and Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 — while six of the 10 are oil-burners, a first for Ward’s.

General Motors scored two wins this year for the first time since 2008 with the Cruze’s 2-liter turbodiesel I4 and the new Corvette Stingray’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. Among trucks, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the sole winner, based on the strength of its 3-liter turbodiesel stump-puller.

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Ram to ProMaster the City in Late 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/ram-to-promaster-the-city-in-late-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/ram-to-promaster-the-city-in-late-2014/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 15:57:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=669458 On the heels of “the biggest thing to happen in the commercial world” that is the Ram ProMaster — whose page links back to our review, of course — the Italo-American truck division has announced the introduction of the ProMaster City in late 2014. The ProMaster City is expected to go up against the Ford […]

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Fiat Doblo

On the heels of “the biggest thing to happen in the commercial world” that is the Ram ProMaster — whose page links back to our review, of course — the Italo-American truck division has announced the introduction of the ProMaster City in late 2014.

The ProMaster City is expected to go up against the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200/Chevrolet City Express in the battle for the hearts and wallets of many a florist, caterer and cable installer.

Much like how the Fiat Ducato provided the framework for the ProMaster, the Fiat Doblo will provide the foundation for the ProMaster City as it becomes an Americanized delivery machine. The treatment will include adding more transmission/engine combos, an automatic transmission as an option, and slight changes to the design to appeal to the North American market.

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Fiat Passes on Milano Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/fiat-passes-on-milano-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/fiat-passes-on-milano-auto-show/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:45:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=654162 If you were hoping to celebrate an early Christmas in Milan with Signore Marchionne next year, you’re out of luck: Fiat has declined an invitation to show at the 2014 Milano Auto Show in light of the weakened local market. The Italian half of the Italo-American mashup stated that the shows in Paris, Frankfurt and […]

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Fiat Strada Adventure

If you were hoping to celebrate an early Christmas in Milan with Signore Marchionne next year, you’re out of luck: Fiat has declined an invitation to show at the 2014 Milano Auto Show in light of the weakened local market.

The Italian half of the Italo-American mashup stated that the shows in Paris, Frankfurt and Geneva are enough for all automakers to show off their latest and greatest to the masses and the press alike, and that current economic conditions may not be able to support another auto show, especially one in a market that took only 1.3 million cars out of the showroom in 2013 after a peak of 2.5 million units sold back in 2007.

In response, Chairman Alfredo Cazzola of Promotor, the production company responsible for organizing next year’s show, had this to say to the Italian daily La Repubblica:

Fiat’s business is to build cars, not to organize shows.

Cazzola also said that Fiat would change its mind once they’ve seen what his Promotor has in store for Milan. Previously, Promotor were responsible for the Bologna Auto Show until its reorganization as the Milano Auto Show, where 133 exhibitors displayed their wares in 2012. In contrast, this year’s show in Frankfort held 1,000 under their tent.

As for 2013, the 38th iteration of the Bologna Auto Show was cancelled due to a lack of exhibitors.

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