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. Thu, 27 Aug 2015 22:00:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 » Fiat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Fiat Chrysler Reportedly Showing Dealers Impossibly Fun Cars That We May Never See http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/fiat-chrysler-reportedly-showing-dealers-impossibly-fun-cars-may-never-see/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/fiat-chrysler-reportedly-showing-dealers-impossibly-fun-cars-may-never-see/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 18:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153129 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles may be showing off a Dodge Barracuda convertible, a next-generation Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and a Grand Wagoneer — they probably put root beer in the fountains too — according to multiple media reports. At the dealer meeting in Las Vegas, FCA executives outlined the future for the brands (Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, […]

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-014

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles may be showing off a Dodge Barracuda convertible, a next-generation Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and a Grand Wagoneer — they probably put root beer in the fountains too — according to multiple media reports.

At the dealer meeting in Las Vegas, FCA executives outlined the future for the brands (Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Fiat) that may include up to 30 new or refreshed products within two years.

According to reports, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne also addressed reports that the automaker was seeking a merger with another automaker, and any potential deal would be “to strengthen the competitive position of the companies involved,” he said according to Automotive News.

According to reports, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was shown with all-wheel drive and FCA’s 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat engine. It was unclear if the super SUV would be all-wheel or just rear-wheel drive.

According to reports, a next-generation Wrangler was shown, but not in truck form.

Future products for the Chrysler brand weren’t immediately clear. Aside from a new Town & Country minivan, Chrysler may not have much on its horizon aside from a redesigned 300, which could be based on the new rear-wheel drive Giulia/Charger/Challenger framework.

We reached out to an FCA spokesperson who predictably said that the automaker wouldn’t comment on confidential news from its dealer meeting.

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Report: Jeep Renegade Trackhawk Confirmed for Production, Why? (Or, Why Not?) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/report-jeep-renegade-trackhawk-confirmed-production-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/report-jeep-renegade-trackhawk-confirmed-production-not/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 19:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1145969 Jeep will build a performance version of its Renegade for 2018, complete with boosted four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, MotorAuthority is reporting (via AutoGuide). The busy 2.4-liter four could produce more than 300 horsepower, according to the report, but it’s not clear what transmission the Renegade Trackhawk could see. Jeep offers its Renegade with a six-speed […]

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Jeep will build a performance version of its Renegade for 2018, complete with boosted four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, MotorAuthority is reporting (via AutoGuide).

The busy 2.4-liter four could produce more than 300 horsepower, according to the report, but it’s not clear what transmission the Renegade Trackhawk could see. Jeep offers its Renegade with a six-speed manual for the smaller 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, but that mill only cranks half of the estimated final horsepower for the Trackhawk.

That leaves us with one question: why?

Even cloudier is the future for the Fiat 500X Abarth, which could share many parts with the Renegade Trackhawk. The Fiat family hauler was reportedly considered for performance improvements last year.

“The 500X is a good body for Abarth,” Roberto Giolito told CarAdvice Australia last year in Paris. “I can say today this is a good item. It’s absolutely perfect in terms of drivability, control. The driving seat is perfectly measured to control the car. So the Abarth would be perfect.”

Both the Renegade and 500X are built in Fiat’s plant in Melfi, Italy for North American sales.

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Review – Identity Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ram-rebel-review-identity-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ram-rebel-review-identity-crisis/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 19:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141673 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm) 8-speed 8HP70 automatic 15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear […]

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2015_Ram_Rebel_(2_of_18)

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4

5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm)

8-speed 8HP70 automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear exhaust with bright tips; Luxury group, $560 (Heated mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors); Protection group, $150 (Transfer case and front suspension skid plating); Monotone paint; Rear Camera and Park Assist, $595 (Backup camera, ParkSense rear park assistant); ZF 8-speed automatic, $500; Anti-spin differential rear axle, $325; 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, $1,150; Rebel instrument cluster, $175; Four corner air suspension; Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen w/nav, $1,005; RamBox cargo management system, $1,295; Trailer brake control, $230; Spray-in bedliner, $475.

Base Price (Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4):
$45,195*
As Tested Price:
$52,375*

* All prices include $1,195 destination fee.

Any debate about Jeep inevitably ends on a common, agreeable topic for all parties involved:

“Jeep really needs to make a pickup already.”

The idea that stuffed shirts at Auburn Hills, who make more in a day than we do in a year, have somehow missed the point is entirely possible (remember the center-mounted exhausts in the Grand Cherokee SRT8, effectively prohibiting any sort of towing?) but highly unlikely.

In fact: Jeep now has a pickup. It’s called the Ram Rebel.

Obligatory disclosure: I have no skin in the pickup game. None. My father owned exactly one of the following: A white Ford F-150, a black Chevrolet Silverado and a green Dodge Ram (when they were called as such). They were all new when he bought them, of 1990s-era vintage and equally pampered. No, we were not a wealthy family, and no, I still couldn’t back up a trailer with a gun pointed to my head.

To be even clearer: The only pickup I fondly remember is a dingy 1996 Toyota Pickup (pre-Tacoma years) that my brother took to college. It was five in speeds and six in cylinders; gutless and indestructible. It couldn’t run up a hill and run the A/C at the same time, but it felt like it could run over anything.

Put simply, in the domestic pickup war for dominance, I am Switzerland.

Now that you know where my allegiances fall, let’s get on to the important stuff.

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Powertrain
The nuance and variation in pickup powertrain and configuration options is dizzying and, in some places, probably an accredited college course for matriculating majors. I shall do my best.

Our Ram Rebel came equipped with the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The 395 horsepower mill bests any option from Ford (for now), but falls short of the 6.2-liter V-8 offered by GM by 25 ponies — if the tale of the tape is the sort of thing matters to you.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(16_of_18)Ram’s 5.7-liter V-8 is getting a little long in the tooth and isn’t my favorite all-around application in the Ram 1500 anyway — the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 takes that crown. But in the Ram Rebel, the V-8 is saved by the smartly cautious and clever 8-speed ZF slushbox. The eager mill keeps the Rebel in check on highway driving, keeping revs low and mileage high. Off road, the 8-speed decently held gears depending on yaw and steering angle, and I seldom used the steering-wheel-mounted gear selection buttons to adjust the ZF’s gear selection. (The gearbox’s Achilles heel is freeway passing; mash the pedal to the right between 55 mph and 80 mph and wait for a second before the revs and speed react accordingly. Eh.)

The motor is decisively torquey and moderately responsive, but certainly not nervous. On a couple ascents, I adjusted the throttle position ever so slightly forward to encourage the mighty motor to climb, but I wouldn’t consider it to be deficient or lagging. After all, I would expect a 13-year-old truck engine to be about as spry and useful as three bad knees.

(Strangely, I would have imagined Ram could have pulled out its 6.4-liter Hemi V8 for the Ford Raptor-esque Rebel. Perhaps that gets a little too close for comfort with the Power Wagon?)

In back, the power is transmitted through a standard 3.92 rear axle or an optional 3.21 rear axle, both available with an anti-spin rear differential if you’re so inclined to add it to your 4×4. Our tester was fitted with the former, optioned with anti-spin, and could climb and sprint like a champion. (Predictably, our mileage with the higher ratio wasn’t great.)

Our Rebel’s rated towing capacity is 9,600 pounds and its payload capacity is 1,211, according to the manufacturer. We opted to find the nearest mountain to climb instead.

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Exterior
Choose your own adventure!

Do you think Ram’s new design language is awesome? (Skip to Paragraph 1)

Do you think Ram’s new direction isn’t awesome? (Skip to Paragraph 2)

Paragraph 1: Head to toe, the Ram Rebel is the most polarizing truck on the market. Undeniable.

Paragraph 2: If the Rebel’s front end has evolved into a snout, then the rear end is most certainly an ass.2015_Ram_Rebel_(7_of_18)

When Ram took the wraps off the Rebel earlier this year, it was clear that the truckmaker couldn’t
outrun its Dodge days fast enough. The rear end, which sports a “Ram” brand visible from space, doesn’t pass the breakfast test for me. The front end boasts a Ram logo that is big enough to be an intention and not a brand (i.e. “I’m going to RAM you with my RAM truck now!”) is saved by the amount of black plastic hiding its sharp lines. If you get past both braggadocios ends, then Ram makes a case as a sensible alternative to Ford’s Art Deco movement and GM’s wallpaper paste movement.

(The hood-mounted nostrils are more my speed, and I wish Ram had left it at that.)

Between the head’s fangs and the tail’s, um, pipes, is the heart of the Ram. Thankfully, chunky 285/70R17 Toyo Open Country A/T tires aren’t hidden by the Ram’s black wells; deep gray wheels pull the rubbers from the wells. There is a little more cladding than I’d like, but it gives the Rebel a sense of purpose and a dare to drivers: Use me.

I really do like Ram’s overall style; I just wish it were subtler that their current approach — which is understated like a five-finger ring.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(12_of_18)

Interior
You could find more comfortable chairs than the ones found in the Ram (or any other full-size FCA car for that matter), but they’d probably have the word “La-Z-Boy” written on them somewhere. The overstuffed-oversized thrones are deeply comfortable and I’m highly suspicious that they’ll last any longer than a couple years.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(10_of_18)The high-contrast red on black interior is a visual cue to the Rebel’s unique position within Ram’s lineup — just incase you missed the giant “Rebel” emblazoned on the glove box and instrument panel. There were nice touches everywhere, like the embroidered Ram on the sides of the driver and passenger seat, and the embossed tread pattern on the seat backs, but in all, the Ram Rebel is a nice place to be — even on rocky roads.

The controls and gear selector knob all have a feel of being usable and accessible, even with work gloves on, and I can appreciate its tactile feeling. Ram may have to catch up to GM in terms of ergonomics and accessibility, but we’re talking about a 7-year-old design compared to a 2-year-old design — there will be generational differences.

You want gripes? I have a few. The Rebel’s unique instrument cluster isn’t very easy to read, and its 12-volt power plug is buried in the small storage opening.

But I love the gripped phone holders, which are placed in the small storage opening underneath the infotainment. That’s a 30-cent solution to a million-dollar problem. Engineering at its finest.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(13_of_18)Infotainment
Ram’s 8.4-inch Uconnect screen (yeah, that Uconnect) was stuffed into the dash of our tester and performed adequately. For my money, General Motors still has the least fussy, easiest-to-understand system (yes Mark, I know) but Ram’s Uconnect isn’t bad.

It could use a few more pixels and a better Bluetooth interface, but I wouldn’t kick Uconnect out of bed.

I’m also petitioning for better navigation-to-instrument cluster integration, but I’m assuming that’s already on the horizon.

Drive
Unexpectedly, the Ram Rebel was stiffer than I was expecting. Its interstate manners were sorted, but the Bilstein dampers aren’t doing it any favors there. The road ride is stiff (but not as painful as a Power Wagon) and the Rebel pines for extra-road activity.

Off road — though, admittedly not the most technical course in the world — the Rebel shines. The extra inch of ground clearance the Rebel gains over the Ram helps to increase its approach angle by some 2.5 degrees (22.9 vs. 25.3), and it can climb moderately steep inclines. (I’d figure that we shimmied up a 30-degree incline without scraping anything.)

2015_Ram_Rebel_(4_of_18)The Rebel is equipped with an adjustable air suspension that raises or lowers the truck four inches from top to bottom. We spent more time in Aero mode — which is below Normal and Off Road heights, but above Entry/Exit height — because “aerodynamic truck” feels like an oxymoron. That’s just who I am, people.

Around the bumpy stuff, the Rebel is communicative and expressive. It’s timbre and buck expressed the uncertainty of its footing below the bed, but remained relatively quiet inside. On highways, the chunky tires drone. On the trail, the chunky tires grip and plant. It’s a wonderful toy.

Which is why, after days behind the wheel, I realized what kind of truck Ram made with the Rebel. It isn’t a logical competitor to the Raptor. In fact, it’s not even close.

In reality, the Rebel feels like the next step up when a Wrangler Rubicon just isn’t big enough. And despite the massive Ram badge on the back, I know exactly what the Rebel is: It’s a Jeep.

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Piston Slap: TIPM and the Freemont’s Enlightening Journey Down Under http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-tipm-freemonts-journey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-tipm-freemonts-journey/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125289   Thanks to the 40+ people who sent queries to Piston Slap over the week. I’ve insisted the satisfaction derived from our interaction is why I keep writing, that everything else is merely gravy. Delicious gravy, but just that. You’ve once again validated that fact. – SM Bob writes: Good Morning Sajeev, I am asking a question about the […]

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Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit (photo courtesy: blog.fiat.com.au)

Thanks to the 40+ people who sent queries to Piston Slap over the week. I’ve insisted the satisfaction derived from our interaction is why I keep writing, that everything else is merely gravy. Delicious gravy, but just that. You’ve once again validated that fact. – SM

Bob writes:

Good Morning Sajeev,

I am asking a question about the headlights of my 2015 Fiat Freemont, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder variety. In particular, replacing the globe in the left headlamp assembly. In the manual it states to move/relocate the TIPM. On the forums there is nothing mentioned about how to remove this particular item, plus I read all the horror stories about the TIPM, unreliability, etc.

As getting to the globe without removing the TIPM looks like an exercise in British engineering — “if you can make something important inaccessible, please do” — is it safe to (1) remove it? (2) how? and (3) what are the consequences if various things have to be disconnected?

The reason for changing the headlights so early (it’s only been in possession for a week) is that down under these headlights are not very effective. Stock standard halogens do not cut the mustard when you are at 110km/h surrounded by ‘roo’s, goats and other livestock. I would like to see them a bit further down the road, rather than right next to me on the shoulder of the road, before deciding whether to ruin my day and theirs.

Sajeev answers:

G’day, mate! Nice to see you’ve moved from German underengineering to one of Fiat’s finer works of underengineering! Not that the Dodge Journey is a terrible vehicle, even in Italian badge-engineered form.

The forums agree with the factory manual’s assessment of moving the TIPM to access the headlight bulb. It’s not a cause for worry, even if TIPM boxes are rather fragile. If so inclined, disconnect the battery for an hour (so the system will drain out) before starting disassembly. How do you remove the TIPM? Maybe this Jeep thread helps. After that, the process seems easy.

To be fair, I worry about upgrading headlights on a TIPM-controlled Chrysler Fiat product and burning out the damn module…then voiding parts of your warranty. And whatever bulb you install won’t be a good fit to a lighting pod designed for #9005 or #9006 halogen bulbs — perhaps a moot point, as you won’t blind other drivers in the middle of nowhere. (Who cares if the ‘roos get a little blind, right?) But if you must, avoid the radioactively bright, high-kelvin HIDs, install headlight relays and an inline fuse going to the TIPM. That fuse might rescue the TIPM, saving you hundreds.

I’d rather avoid it all via aftermarket driving lights from a big name company certified legal in Australia. Run them near/in place of the bumper mounted fog lights, wiring them directly to the battery. Then run a TIPM-free switch directly from the wiring to the interior. Install the switch under the dash or inside the center console, as to not upset the interior’s fine Italian design.

Possibly mediocre US-spec headlights possibly redesigned for Fiat’s global needs? Dubious conversions to stronger headlights with glare galore? TIPM failure issues? Warranty concerns?

Just skip it all and go aftermarket.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Fiat COO: 124 Spider Abarth Will Perform, “Otherwise It Is Useless” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-coo-124-spider-abarth-will-perform-otherwise-it-is-useless/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-coo-124-spider-abarth-will-perform-otherwise-it-is-useless/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 21:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1120233 Remember earlier this month when Mazda MX-5 Miata program chief, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, said if you wanted to complain about the roadster’s lack of power, you could shove it down the aftermarket hole of your choice? Those were good times, two weeks ago. It seems Fiat COO Alfredo Altavilla is of a completely different mindset when it […]

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124 Spider_009

Remember earlier this month when Mazda MX-5 Miata program chief, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, said if you wanted to complain about the roadster’s lack of power, you could shove it down the aftermarket hole of your choice? Those were good times, two weeks ago.

It seems Fiat COO Alfredo Altavilla is of a completely different mindset when it comes to their own MX-5-derived 124 Spider, specifically any version of the car wearing a scorpion badge.

“You like performance? There will be an Abarth version [of the 124 Spider],” Altavilla confirmed to AutoExpress.

“Abarth is all about performance, and so I’ve told my team to stop working on colors and trims. Any new version of an Abarth car should deliver some sort of a performance enhancement, otherwise it is useless.”

An Abarth-tuned 124 Spider would complement a “comfortable” base model for the reborn nameplate.

The first Fiat 124 Spiders are expected to arrive in the U.S. next year.

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FCA, Peugeot Could Be Most Impacted by Flagging Greek Economy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fca-peugeot-impacted-flagging-greek-economy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fca-peugeot-impacted-flagging-greek-economy/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 19:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109161 Automakers PSA (Peugeot and Citröen) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are most at risk if Greece’s economy fails and the country backs out of the Euro, according to a report by Automotive News. Analysts say the two automakers have the largest share of southern European markets — including Italy, Spain and Portugal — where the economic impact of […]

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1024px-Peugeot_308_CC_e-HDi_FAP_110_STOP_&_START_Active_(Facelift)_–_Frontansicht,_10._September_2011,_Düsseldorf

Automakers PSA (Peugeot and Citröen) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are most at risk if Greece’s economy fails and the country backs out of the Euro, according to a report by Automotive News.

Analysts say the two automakers have the largest share of southern European markets — including Italy, Spain and Portugal — where the economic impact of a Greek failure could hit the hardest.

Although the automakers have a large share of those markets, its a relatively small portion of their overall sales, the report states.

Analysts say that economic turmoil in Greece has yet to impact automakers, but many are taking a wait-and-see approach. The larger impact may be in neighboring economies, such as Germany, if those countries are expected to shoulder bailouts from any other failing economies.

“We recognize this as a potential catalyst that could cause European consumers to postpone their purchase of new cars, but we don’t take that as a base case scenario,” Edoardo Spina of Exane BNP Paribas told Automotive News. “The only risk stems from contagion, which will depend on how the European institutions and the media handle the next few days and weeks, but it’s a relatively small risk.”

The report says that PSA and FCA’s sales in the southern European markets (Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece combines) comprises about 12 percent of their overall business. In comparison, Volkswagen’s sales there are only about 5 percent.

By many accounts, Greece’s economy is a mess. But considering the relatively low rate of new-vehicle purchases there — in May only 9,070 new vehicles were registered in Greece, compared to 256,385 in Germany, according to ACEA — most automakers could withstand a Greek collapse. The greatest damage would be collateral.

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Ferrari Worth Over $11 Billion, Says FCA Boss Sergio Marchionne http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ferrari-worth-11-billion-says-fca-boss-sergio-marchionne/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ferrari-worth-11-billion-says-fca-boss-sergio-marchionne/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 16:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1108185 Speaking at an unrelated Fiat 500 reveal last week, Fiat-Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne said Ferrari is worth about $11 billion and he expects the prancing horse’s IPO to garner about $1.1 billion went it goes up for sale in October. “There are clear expectations from ourselves as Ferrari brand is unique,” Marchionne said, according to […]

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Picture courtesy blogs.reuters.com

Speaking at an unrelated Fiat 500 reveal last week, Fiat-Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne said Ferrari is worth about $11 billion and he expects the prancing horse’s IPO to garner about $1.1 billion went it goes up for sale in October.

“There are clear expectations from ourselves as Ferrari brand is unique,” Marchionne said, according to Bloomberg News. “There is also a scarcity value as we are just selling a 10 percent stake.”

Marchionne’s estimate is roughly double what brokers said the Maranello-based manufacturer could be worth almost a year ago.

The $11 billion valuation before its October IPO may be ambitious, but so is Marchionne’s overall plan for FCA. He announced the move to spin off Ferrari last year as part of a larger plan to invest $61 billion back into FCA. The sale is made up of a 10-percent offer of Ferrari on the NYSE and a redistribution of FCA’s remaining 80-percent share to the Agnelli family, who also own about 30 percent of Fiat. The non-FCA owned 10 percent of Ferrari will stay with Enzo Ferrari’s son, current Ferrari vice chairman Piero Lardi Ferrari.

When it goes to sale in October, the IPO may raise about $1.1 billion for Ferrari. The company has said it won’t build any more than 7,000 cars per year, wouldn’t change its current business model nor would it be likely that anyone could takeover controlling interest.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad investment. As a company, Ferrari is wildly profitable and will still sell you a $50 T-shirt if you can’t afford a share in October.

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Jeep Points to Map of India, Says Let’s Print More Money Here http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/jeep-points-to-map-of-india-says-lets-print-more-money-here/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/jeep-points-to-map-of-india-says-lets-print-more-money-here/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 19:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104881 More and more automakers are looking at exotic locales to produce their wares (us Canadians can consider Mexico exotic thanks to its ice-free beaches) as they expand their brands and explore in-roads to untapped markets. For Jeep, that means investing in a shared money-printing press with an unlikely partner: Tata, the parent company of Land Rover. FCA […]

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2015 Jeep Renegade

More and more automakers are looking at exotic locales to produce their wares (us Canadians can consider Mexico exotic thanks to its ice-free beaches) as they expand their brands and explore in-roads to untapped markets.

For Jeep, that means investing in a shared money-printing press with an unlikely partner: Tata, the parent company of Land Rover. FCA will put $280 million USD into joint venture Fiat India Automobiles Private Limited which, since 2007, has solely produced Fiat models.

The investment will “support the production of a new Jeep vehicle and is expected to begin production in the second quarter of 2017,” according to statement released today by FCA. Jeep did not give further details on the new model.

With Sergio Marchionne’s hunger for consolidation, this could be seen as a sign of interest in a more formal arrangement between FCA and India’s Tata, especially when you consider the FCA executive’s desire for a Range Rover-esque model.

“We are pleased that this investment will strengthen FCA presence in India and are confident in the ability of the joint venture to produce world class products like those carrying the legendary Jeep nameplate,” Marchionne said.

This announcement is part of a wider expansion by Jeep into new markets. From The Detroit News:

FCA plans to produce 1.9 million Jeeps by 2018 at 10 plants in six countries: the U.S., Italy, China, Brazil, India and one other yet-to-be-announced country. Two years ago, only 798,000 rolled out of four plants in the United States.

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SPIED: Fiat 124 Spider Sports Long Hood for Small Motor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/spied-fiat-124-spider-sports-long-hood-for-small-motor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/spied-fiat-124-spider-sports-long-hood-for-small-motor/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 14:16:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1099897 This is the first ever set of spy shots of the upcoming Mazda MX-5 Miata based Fiat 124 Spider with near-production body work. Damn, honey, you’ve got a big nose. While this addition to the Fiat lineup is quite covered in camo in these photos, it’s easy to see the roadster will rock a longer hood than […]

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124 Spider_011

This is the first ever set of spy shots of the upcoming Mazda MX-5 Miata based Fiat 124 Spider with near-production body work.

Damn, honey, you’ve got a big nose.

While this addition to the Fiat lineup is quite covered in camo in these photos, it’s easy to see the roadster will rock a longer hood than the Mazda MX-5. However, it looks like other elements stay quite similar to the original on which it’s based, including the curved windshield surround and proportions of the rear deck.

If rumor is to be believed, the new Fiat 124 will be powered by the same 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder found in other Fiat products. Power will be sent to the rear via a six-speed manual transmission and possibly a six-speed dual clutch or conventional automatic.

We will likely see the Fiat 124 in all its glory this November at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. Expect sales to start next year.

The new Fiat will be built alongside the MX-5 in Japan.

124 Spider_011 124 Spider_010 124 Spider_009 124 Spider_008 124 Spider_006 124 Spider_005 124 Spider_004 124 Spider_003 124 Spider_002 124 Spider_001

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FCA Australia Can’t Locate $8M Worth of Loaned Jeeps http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-australia-cant-locate-8m-worth-of-loaned-jeeps/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-australia-cant-locate-8m-worth-of-loaned-jeeps/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1099097 Under the leadership of stellar executives Clyde Campbell and Veronica Johns, FCA Australia loaned out “hundreds” of vehicles, all of which the company would like returned. That’s too bad as FCA doesn’t know exactly where they all are. Australia’s Daily Telegraph (via Automotive News) is reporting that FCA is still trying to find the vehicles […]

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2015-jeep-wrangler

Under the leadership of stellar executives Clyde Campbell and Veronica Johns, FCA Australia loaned out “hundreds” of vehicles, all of which the company would like returned.

That’s too bad as FCA doesn’t know exactly where they all are.

Australia’s Daily Telegraph (via Automotive News) is reporting that FCA is still trying to find the vehicles that were part of the company’s ambassador program, meant to put popular individuals in the seats of their products, valued at $10M AUD ($7.75M USD).

As reported earlier, records on the vehicles are shaky, with many of them given away without anyone at the company tracking their whereabouts.

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Former FCA Australia Boss Campbell Once Involved In Car Thefts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/former-fca-australia-boss-campbell-once-involved-in-car-thefts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/former-fca-australia-boss-campbell-once-involved-in-car-thefts/#comments Sun, 14 Jun 2015 13:54:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1092121 The Age is reporting former FCA Australia boss, Clyde Campbell, was involved in a car theft ring and brought before the courts in the early ’90s. According to the report, the former executive currently at the center of a $30 million (AUD) misappropriated funds case was “charged with a number of car theft offences between 1990 […]

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Chrysler 300 (Aus)

The Age is reporting former FCA Australia boss, Clyde Campbell, was involved in a car theft ring and brought before the courts in the early ’90s.

According to the report, the former executive currently at the center of a $30 million (AUD) misappropriated funds case was “charged with a number of car theft offences between 1990 and 1992, in the wake of an 18-month investigation by South Australia’s Organised Crime Task Force and Victoria Police,” says Mark Hawthorne of The Age.

In January 1991, a 23-year-old Campbell pleaded guilty to three charges – two of receiving stolen goods, one of obtaining property by deception – after he was found with a stolen vehicle.

Campbell was brought before the courts yet again a year later, this time “implicated in a car theft racket that allegedly stole 10 cars in Adelaide worth $153,000 between May 1989 and September 1990.” He was charged with eight offences at that time, but struck a deal with prosecutors and “pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to a felony, and comforting and harbouring” two of his accomplices.

 

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Aus. FCA Misappropriation Case Includes Former MB, Current Crown Resorts Execs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/aus-fca-misappropriation-case-includes-former-mb-exec-crown-resorts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/aus-fca-misappropriation-case-includes-former-mb-exec-crown-resorts/#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2015 18:58:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085937 As we reported earlier, Clyde Campbell and a number of his associates, including his successor Veronica Johns and former boss Ernst Lieb by way of his Motorworld dealerships, are being named in a misappropriation case claiming $30 million AUD was funnelled out of company coffers. This weekend, more details have come to light, including how […]

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Chrysler 300 (Aus)

As we reported earlier, Clyde Campbell and a number of his associates, including his successor Veronica Johns and former boss Ernst Lieb by way of his Motorworld dealerships, are being named in a misappropriation case claiming $30 million AUD was funnelled out of company coffers.

This weekend, more details have come to light, including how Campbell was able to pilfer FCA funds without raising red flags in Detroit.

The story verges on conspiracy and includes the wife of Campbell, his successor, a formerly disgraced Daimler executive, a casino, a boat and extravagant homes paid for by FCA without its knowing. Even Campbell’s wife’s hairdresser received a free Jeep as part of the brand’s “ambassador” program.

Mark Hawthorne of The Sydney Morning Herald remarked, “It has all the makings of a Hollywood script. In Elizabeth Hurley, it even has the presence of a Hollywood star.”

According to the article published today, $20 million (all figures in Australian dollars) was spent on overpriced dealer website services, $550,000 on a “mobile outdoor floating billboard” that is allegedly a 40-foot Chris Craft boat owned by Campbell, $1 million Christmas parties that included Louis Vuitton bags as employee gifts, over $500,000 – and possible nearly $2 million – in travel expenses, and a private suite for Campbell and his friends – including former fired Mercedes-Benz USA CEO and president Ernst Lieb – to enjoy the Monaco Grand Prix.

Campbell served under Lieb
Ernst Lieb did an eighteen year stint in multiple roles at Mercedes-Benz Canada Ltd. between 1985 and 2003. It’s where he rode out the “merger of equals” between Daimler and Chrysler as he served in his final position, CEO and president, of the Canadian subsidiary.

In 2003, Ernst moved to Australia and took the same titles at the Australian arm of the newly-merged DaimlerChrysler. That’s where he became the boss of Clyde Campbell. Ernst would leave Australia in 2006 to become CEO and president of Mercedes-Benz USA, but not before Campbell signed a contract for dealer website services with Motortrak, a British digital retail marketing agency owned by Gary Pask.

By May 2007, Daimler would divest itself from Chrysler, with Cerberus Capital Management taking a 80.1 percent stake in the American business.

Starting January 2008, Campbell served as managing director of Motortrak in its Australian office. His wife, Simone, was director and company secretary starting in May 2009. During his time at Motortrak, Campbell sold a website services deal to Lieb for all Mercedes-Benz dealers in the United States.

“That was the making of Motortrak and the making of Gary Pask as one of the richest businessmen in the UK,” a former Motortrak staff member told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“The whole deal was done by Clyde.”

During this time, Chrysler received $12.5 billion (USD) from the U.S Treasury and $1 billion (CAD) from the Canadian and Ontario governments. The bailout cash was provided under the condition of a Fiat takeover.

Clyde left Motortrak in September 2010, with his wife following one month later. Two days after she left the retail marketing company, Clyde Campbell was appointed managing director of the now-Fiat-controlled Chrysler Australia.

In October 2011, Lieb was fired from Mercedes-Benz USA for using corporate funds to pay golf club fees, granting rentals for vehicles in exchange for flight upgrades, and using $100,000 in corporate money to perform upgrades in his private home – including a home theatre, gym, washer and dryer, and built-in barbecue. A later wrongful dismissal suit launched by Lieb against Mercedes in Germany was dismissed, with the court stating the claims were “so serious that any further employment [at Daimler] would be unacceptable.”

An unnamed Daimler executive at that time told German paper Handelsblatt, “Ernst was warned, but he has done it again.”

Another Motortrak contract, Lieb’s Motorworld and Campbell’s high life
Almost as soon as Campbell returned to FCA in 2010, he signed another contract with former employer Motortrak. The initial amount of $690 a month for website services per dealer would balloon to $4,100. This was charged to the network’s 184 dealers.

More than $20 million was paid to Motortrak from 2011, claims FCA, “substantially greater than the cost for similar web services provided by Motortrak itself and by competitors.”

Shortly after, disgraced Lieb would return to Australia to become co-owner of the Motorworld dealership group along with David Piva.

“After working all my life in the wholesale sector, I am now in the ‘real’ business of the Automotive Industry – the retail business!” Lieb said in a press release announcing his arrival at Motorworld.

FCA alleges it incurred some $4 million in damages in deals between the Campbell-led subsidiary and Lieb-owned Motorworld, including “marketing support and to help it buy property, specifically the Brighton dealership,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

Campbell was well known as one of the biggest-spending marketers in Australia. The company would end up sponsoring horse racing, soccer players in multiple leagues, events, Crown Resorts, professional sports teams, and provide vehicles to celebrities the world over.

While there were only 45 official “ambassador” program vehicles documented in 2013, staff said the number was closer to 100. The program was so pervasive, even Simone Campbell’s hairdresser, Karlose, received a Jeep for free.

Travel expenses skyrocketed. Campbell incurred $537,849 in travel expenses in his own name. However, it is believed he also incurred – in whole or in part – an additional $452,138 in 2012 and $445,556 in 2013 in travel expenses submitted under the names of employees who had no business traveling.

Part of this travel was a trip to Monaco. Campbell, along with Lieb and Pask, enjoyed multiple stays at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Lavish parties were also the norm for Christmas. Approximately $1 million each year was spent on the annual employee Christmas party held at Crown Palladium, with an estimated 100 suites booked at Crown Towers and Crown Promenade hotels for staff, guests, brand ambassadors and media. This started under Campbell’s leadership and continued under his successor, Veronica Johns.

$550,000 “mobile outdoor floating billboard”
Allegedly, in March 2013, Campbell contacted FCA’s advertising agency Maxus to direct payment on four invoices of $137,500 each, for a total of $550,000, provided by My Alfa Romeo. The invoices were for a “mobile outdoor floating billboard”.

My Alfa Romeo, partly owned by Crown Resorts’ Ishan Ratnam (a.k.a. Ishan Kunaratnam) and Campbell’s wife Simone, is said not to have delivered said billboard. Instead, FCA alleges the money was used to purchase a 40-foot Chris Craft boat valued at $400,000 owned by Campbell.

Ratnam’s lawyer, John Price, stated, “There is a contract between My Alfa Romeo and FCA and the billboard was provided. My client denies that assertion, as certainly Fiat Chrysler did receive it.”

From Campbell to Johns, the spending continued
In April 2013, Veronica Johns took over the role vacated by Campbell when he moved to New Zealand-based distributorship Fiat Chrysler NZ Limited of which he took a 50 percent stake. The other half of the NZ company is owned by Ateco Automotive executive chairman Neville Crichton.

However, the change in leadership didn’t mean the money would stop flowing from FCA.

At the time, FCA touted their new leader Johns as “the first Australian woman to head the local division of a major car company.”

After a $3.1 million renovation of the company’s Melbourne headquarters done by Madok, a construction company controlled by Mitchell Knight, the same company was contracted to perform upgrades to John’s private residence with the work invoiced back to FCA.

Three cars were purchased as prizes for two charities and a soccer club. Two of those vehicles would end up registered to Mitchell Knight and one to Gregory Hede, John’s husband. Knight sold at least one of those vehicles back to the City Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership at a $20,000 premium. FCA claims the vehicles were funnelled through the Lieb-owned Motorworld group.

A Fiat Abarth race team was funded by the FCA Australian subsidiary under Johns. It was budgeted at $500,000 but cost $800,00 in all. Clyde Campbell and Gregory Hede competed as drivers in those cars, their racing licences paid for by FCA.

Other expenses mentioned in the case include an $11,000 bill rung up by Johns at Crown Towers.

In September 2014, FCA alleges Campbell, his wife Simone, Lieb, his wife Petra and other guests took a three-day trip to a luxury golf and spa resort in New Zealand on FCA’s dime under the leadership of Veronica Johns without proper authorization.

One month later, Johns left FCA for “personal reasons” after less than two years at the post and a total of 16 years with the company.

How did it all happen?

“The spending was out of control,” told former staff member to The Sydney Morning Herald. “And anyone who questioned it was shown the door.”

When Johns left the top post, FCA appointed Chrysler parts business head Pat Dougherty as the new president and CEO of the Australian subsidiary. When he arrived, employees lined up at his door to tell the story, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, which Dougherty then reported back to Detroit.

Auditors arrived in Melbourne in late January.

How it all happened in the first place, Dougherty is keeping mum.

“FCA Australia will not engage in a running commentary on matters currently before the courts”, he told BusinessDay.

However, many think a lack of control and oversight is due to the DaimlerChrysler fiasco and Chrysler’s recent merger with Fiat. With Italian and American managers preoccupied with larger corporate matters, executives in Australia were able to operate virtually autonomously, especially as sales grew.

Campbell is stating he’s innocent through his lawyer.

“We are confident that, in due course, the allegations will be shown to be wrong and will be embarrassing for FCA,” Campbell’s lawyer Sam Bond told The Sydney Morning Herald.

[Sources: 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

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NYT: GM’s Barra Declined Meeting with FCA’s Marchionne to Discuss Possible Merger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nyt-gms-barra-declined-meeting-with-fcas-marchionne-to-discuss-possible-merger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nyt-gms-barra-declined-meeting-with-fcas-marchionne-to-discuss-possible-merger/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 18:21:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1075162 Sergio Marchionne sent Mary Barra a detailed email in the middle of March in an effort to start merger talks. Barra, CEO of General Motors, was uninterested in the offer and rebuffed Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It was the first time the two executives had ever spoken, but it wouldn’t be the last Barra […]

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sergio-marchionne

Sergio Marchionne sent Mary Barra a detailed email in the middle of March in an effort to start merger talks. Barra, CEO of General Motors, was uninterested in the offer and rebuffed Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

It was the first time the two executives had ever spoken, but it wouldn’t be the last Barra would hear of Marchionne’s merger desires.

That’s the story being told by the New York Times today, detailing the lengths to which Marchionne is going to trigger consolidation within the automotive industry.

During a routine analyst conference call on April 29, Marchionne brought his plea to other executives through the media with a 25-page PowerPoint presentation.

“I think it is absolutely clear that the amount of capital waste that’s going on in this industry is something that certainly requires remedy. A remedy in our view is through consolidation,” Marchionne said.

Marchionne’s overture of a merger with GM includes no less than 14 brands between North America and Europe, not including the many other brands each company markets in China and other emerging regions. But, to date, the overture has been played to an audience wearing earplugs.

Even with the vast number of brands, that isn’t what bothers Marchionne. Instead, it’s the amount of money poured into redundant R&D work that could be shared by multiple automakers.

“It’s fundamentally immoral to allow for that waste to continue unchecked,” he said.

[Source: New York Times]

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Fiat Aegea Is the Dodge Dart for Elsewhere http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-aegea-is-the-dodge-dart-for-elsewhere/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-aegea-is-the-dodge-dart-for-elsewhere/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 14:18:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072098 Fiat, in conjunction with Tofaş R&D, revealed its new compact three-box Aegea sedan project at the Istanbul Motor Show. The new sedan, which will get a different name when it goes to production, is the first of three new models to be introduced for the EMEA region, replacing the Linea sedan and Bravo hatchback. Designed in Italy and engineered […]

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Fiat Aegea

Fiat, in conjunction with Tofaş R&D, revealed its new compact three-box Aegea sedan project at the Istanbul Motor Show. The new sedan, which will get a different name when it goes to production, is the first of three new models to be introduced for the EMEA region, replacing the Linea sedan and Bravo hatchback.

Designed in Italy and engineered in Turkey, the Aegea project sits atop the same ‘small wide’ platform as the Fiat 500L/500X, Jeep Renegade and (to a lesser degree) Dodge Dart. With a wheelbase of 2,640 mm (103.9 inches), the Aegea is only 2.5 inches shorter than the Dart at the wheels. The new sedan sits at 4,500 mm (177.2 inches) long, 1,780 mm (70.1 inches) wide and 1,480 mm (58.3 inches) tall. Fiat also states the sedan is “large enough to seat 5 well built passengers comfortably with a load capacity of over 510 litres.”

Four engines will be available in the Aegea family. Two Multijet II turbodiesels and two gasoline engines, mated to manual and automatic transmissions, will produce between 95 and 120 hp.

The Ægea name pays tribute to the Aegean Sea that is “the symbolic bridge between East and West.”

The new sedan will go on sale in Turkey in November and later in other EMEA markets.

NOTE: The car will be built at the same plant where there’s currently a labor dispute. That November on-sale date could slide a bit if the situation isn’t resolved soon.

Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea

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The End of Italy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/end-italy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/end-italy/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 15:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1058586 As FCA holds their first annual general shareholders meeting in Amsterdam (after 114 such meetings in Turin), Pirelli has been sold to the Chinese. Pininfarina negotiates its sale to Mahindra. The Italian automotive industry as a whole is in a sad state. The reasons for this are many, but the process of “de-Italianization” of the country’s […]

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Fiat 500 "Topolino"

As FCA holds their first annual general shareholders meeting in Amsterdam (after 114 such meetings in Turin), Pirelli has been sold to the Chinese. Pininfarina negotiates its sale to Mahindra. The Italian automotive industry as a whole is in a sad state. The reasons for this are many, but the process of “de-Italianization” of the country’s auto industry continues. In the end, all there could be left is a memory and many homeless ghosts.

Italy gave birth to names recognized worldwide in the automotive industry for their design and sophistication, engineering and fury. It also gave rise to many a brand focused on the simpler side, using a more utilitarian design that nonetheless spawned classics dear to any automotive enthusiast. As to the former, any car lover recognizes names like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati; while examples of the former also abound, Vespa, Iso, Innocenti and of course Fiat.

1899 FIAT 4 HP

It didn’t start out this way. Società Anonima Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino – or F.I.A.T. for short – was founded in 1899 by a group of noble landholders. These people were witness to the growing industrialization in their country and used their resources to slowly control and direct the process. From among these men, Giovanni Agnelli surged as the leader and soon started buying and crowding his partners out. In due course, his family controlled Fiat and do so to this day.

Initially involved in motor racing, Fiat was one of the leaders in the auto world, producing cars for the wealthy. Fiat was the spearhead into the world for the Italian automotive industry and soon set up shop in other countries, licensing their products to be made by local partners (such as in Germany) and even crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1908 building a factory of their own in New York. Some even say Henry Ford got some of his inspiration for the assembly line watching the processes carried out by Fiat.

FS Class E626 locomotive

As time progressed, Fiat expanded and starting building locomotives, marine and airplane engines. In World War I, Fiat was a major supplier for the Allied forces. The War followed by the New York stock market crash impoverished Italy and the Italian industry changed its focus. The first Fiat 500 – better known as Topolino due to it looking like Mickey Mouse – came out. Designed by Dante Giacosa, it was one of the first people’s car and started to motorize Italy and other countries in Europe.

With the ascension of Benito Mussolini, Fiat was forced to recede back into Italy. It was rewarded by being given large government contracts and produced everything from planes to machine guns for the fascist hordes. Then Europe’s largest maker, it basically stopped production outside of Italy, though Fiat products were still built under license in other European countries.

Fiat’s success led to the development of other Italian brands. Vicenzo Lancia and Enzo Ferrari were Fiat race car drivers who of course went on to establish their own companies. Lancia in particular was very innovative building the first monococque car (the Lambda) among scores of other innovations. Those companies then spawned others. Everyone knows the story of Lamborghini. Ferruccio Lamborghini was a successful tractor maker. He bought a Ferrari and was so unsatisfied with the car (he thought its controls too heavy and a chore to drive) he went to complain to Enzo Ferrari. Enzo told him that if he, Ferruccio, thought he could build a better car, he should. And thus Lamborghini was born.

Alfa SZ AutoItalia Brooklands

Fiat’s success also birthed Alfa Romeo in a roundabout way. Jealous of Turin’s success, Italy’s most industrialized city Milan gave rise to that famous marque. It soon went on its way and became successful, establishing itself in racing (Juan Manuel Fangio started in Formula 1 with Alfa Romeo, with whom he won his first titles, then went on to Maserati, Ferrari and Mercedes Benz, winning championships with all) and gracing the garages of people of means. It also worked closely with the famous carrozzieri that were the origins of the famous Italian design houses. Zagato was a preferred partner. Many Alfa Romeo cars carry a Zagato body. So do Lancias and even Fiats. They also sit under other famous names like Bertone, Alemano, Fissore, among others. This is one of the reasons sales of those Italian cars seem unimpressive today. Besides the lower market volumes of the times, Italian cars splinter off into thousands of variations, all wearing carrozzieri’s names and not necessarily that of the makes.

Of course, to supply this budding industry, many suppliers were born. Magnetti Marelli, Comau, Pirelli, Brembo and many countless other recognizable names exist. Like most of the other Italian car makers, many of these suppliers would be incorporated into Fiat in a long drawn out process starting after World War II.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Pirelli was sold off to the Chinese. That was a shock to many in Italy. Pirelli was an early partner of Ferrari and their stories are intimately linked. 7 billion euros (not to mention the 1 billion euro debt) overcame any inhibitions however.

Pininfarina Nuova Stratos

Other emerging nations are also looking to buy into Italian know-how. Mahindra is negotiating to buy Pininfarina (also closely associated to Ferrari and Fiat). Year after year of losses, debt (160 million euros) is high and the Indians could possibly soon see better looking cars on their streets. Pininfarina would have a lot of work as Mahindras are not exactly known for their stunning design.

It’s not just emerging market companies taking away Italy’s industry piece by piece. Local European vultures, or rather, partners, are also eating up the Italian industry slowly. Volkswagen has been a major profiteer or investor, depending on your point of view. It now owns Italdesign, former company of Giorgetto Giugiaro. Audi has raided Lamborghini and Ducati. Mercedes Benz has a large stake in MV Augusta. Even PSA has carved out a chunk of Bimota. In the case of the motorcycles, it’s been said the Germans are mostly interested in the light welding techniques the Italian companies use for engines and transmissions.

American companies have also taken chunks out of Italy. In 1970, Ford bought the Ghia design house, famous for VW’s Karmann Ghia, the Volvo P1800, quite a few Chryslers, and countless Fiats, Alfas and Lancias. Sadly, at Ford, Carrozzeria Ghia became a trim line and has since been forgotten in the group, being replaced with the rather more pedestrian sounding Titanium.

Ford-vs-Ferrari-Redux-placement

Ford’s interest in Italy is historic. In the mid part of the last century the Americans had a showdown with Ferrari. Interested in buying Ferrari, Enzo and Henry Ford II played power games which led to entertaining one upmanship like the famous Ford GT40 LeMan victories. On the business side, the potential loss of Ferrari led the Italian government to softly nudge it into the all-encompassing embrace of Fiat. The Italian government’s goal at the time was to strengthen the country’s auto industry.

The current piecemeal parting of Italy’s home auto industry is partly the result of recent governments’ lack of interest. At least Luca Ciferri over at Automotive News Europe thinks so. He cites the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler as examples of a government protecting its industry. He also mentions France’s recently increased 14% stake in PSA to help it ride out the current crisis. Germany fights tooth and nail whenever the EU makes moves that the Germans perceive as threatening to their makes. The British have set up a highly successful action plan, government backed, that has the UK again as one of the largest European car producers.

Meanwhile Ciferri asks, what has the Italian government done? In 2007, they had a sort of clash for clunkers scheme. Due to that program the Italian market peaked at 2.5 million units and has since been halved.

Government action or inaction isn’t the only culprit. Bertone, the reputed carrozziere and design house of Marcello Gandini fame – Miura and Countach, among many others – went bankrupt without even being taken over. Fiat’s ongoing challenging market perception and Magnetti Marelli electronics’ reputation have also been a problem. However, larger trends and currents are at play. Surely part of the problem for the Italian automotive industry is Italy’s economy itself. Recently one the “I’s” in the infamous PIIGS club, many analysts claim Italy’s economy is much larger than officially measured as a heavy government hand drives many businesses into the informal market. The adoption of the euro has not done Italy many favors. In the past, the country could hide inefficiencies behind successive lira devaluations. This is not possible any more. At the turn of the century, Italy was the fourth largest car market in the world. Today it is not even in the Top 10.

As the annual general meeting unfolds in Amsterdam and FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne again beats on his consolidation drum aiming to strike that one last deal, the halls in Turin will be dark. Ghosts of the past walk those halls reminding us of a certain flair, a peculiar lifestyle, a particular way of doing things. Around the world, other people will be using the names of the brands that promised and offered this Italian style to consumers. Ideas will be discussed in other languages, not the original. Documents will be drawn up and plans presented in foreign tongues. If those companies keep the promise of the dolce far niente lifestyle the creators of those marques created, it could strengthen that ideal. However, much is always lost in any translation. A Lamborghini dreamed in German is not the same as one imagined in Italian.

A part of the variation in the auto world is being lost. A peculiar taste and flavor will be lost. And we will all be the poorer for it.

[Image credits: Przemysław Jahr via Wikimedia Commons, Icarus83 via Wikimedia Commons, Tony Harrison (Flickr: AutoItalia Brooklands May 2012 THP_7123) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

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Fiat Compact Sedan to Debut at Istanbul Autoshow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-compact-sedan-debut-istanbul-autoshow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-compact-sedan-debut-istanbul-autoshow/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 15:26:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062298   In related news: Istanbul has an auto show. The new built-in-Turkey sedan is described as a “compact three-box,” hinting the model will be a fairly basic affair. We expect it to be a replacement for the Fiat Linea (pictured), a compact sedan sitting atop the GM Fiat Small LWB platform that currently underpins the Opel Meriva and […]

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Fiat Linea

In related news: Istanbul has an auto show.

The new built-in-Turkey sedan is described as a “compact three-box,” hinting the model will be a fairly basic affair. We expect it to be a replacement for the Fiat Linea (pictured), a compact sedan sitting atop the GM Fiat Small LWB platform that currently underpins the Opel Meriva and Ram ProMaster City.

Fiat states the car will be sold in 40 countries in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region and will have “excellent interior comfort and load capacity.”

Again, Istanbul has an auto show.

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2017 Fiat 124 Spider Set For 2016 Showroom Arrival http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2017-fiat-124-spider-set-2016-showroom-arrival/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2017-fiat-124-spider-set-2016-showroom-arrival/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 18:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055361 For those who want their 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata to have a more Italian flair, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider will hit showrooms in 2016. Prior to being unloaded from many a container, the 124 Spider will make its global debut at either Frankfurt or Los Angeles later this year, reports Edmunds. According to Fiat […]

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1970 Fiat 124 Spider Sport

For those who want their 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata to have a more Italian flair, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider will hit showrooms in 2016.

Prior to being unloaded from many a container, the 124 Spider will make its global debut at either Frankfurt or Los Angeles later this year, reports Edmunds.

According to Fiat Brand for North America boss Jason Stoicevich, the roadster would not be a rebadge of the Miata, proclaiming Fiat would put its own style on the model once offered to Alfa Romeo. Parent company FCA later decreed that all Alfas would be designed and engineered in the brand’s native Italy, shuffling the 124 Spider off to Fiat in so doing.

Power is expected to come from Fiat’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder, while pricing and passenger configuration — 2+2 or two-passenger — are among the mysteries left unsolved for now. Both the Spider and the Miata will be assembled at Mazda’s facility in Hiroshima, Japan.

Once stateside, it will be the crown jewel for Fiat’s U.S. lineup — currently consisting of the 500, 500e, 500L and 500X — while competing against the MINI Cooper Roadster, Porsche Boxster, and the aforementioned Miata.

[Photo credit: Rex Gray/Flickr]

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Next Fiat Panda To Rival Citroen Cactus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/next-fiat-panda-rival-citroen-cactus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/next-fiat-panda-rival-citroen-cactus/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 15:30:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028313 During FCA’s most recent five year plan presentation, Fiat was the sole brand that did not have any semblance of a unified direction. While Fiat is decidedly mainstream in key markets such as Brazil and Latin America, it appears that FCA is trying to re-position the brand as something else entirely in Europe and North […]

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Fiat_Panda. Photo courtesy wikipedia.org

During FCA’s most recent five year plan presentation, Fiat was the sole brand that did not have any semblance of a unified direction. While Fiat is decidedly mainstream in key markets such as Brazil and Latin America, it appears that FCA is trying to re-position the brand as something else entirely in Europe and North America. Key to this plan will be an all new, bare bones C-segment vehicle that could end up wearing the Panda badge.

According to the UK’s Autocar, Fiat’s lineup will focus on a series of CUVs in the immediate future, including the Jeep-derived 500X and a variant of the next-gen Jeep Compass. But once those are launched, the next product from Fiat will be

a back-to-basics C-segment hatchback and estate, replacing the unsuccessful Fiat Bravo. These will be based on the same platform as the 500L MPV and will be built in Turkey, where labour rates are cheaper.

Insiders have told Autocar that the new models will not be as “basic” as Dacia’s successful models, but will be “very well priced”. Some rumours suggest that Marchionne will use the well-regarded Panda badge for the Bravo replacement, neatly rebuilding the Panda family as Fiat’s no-nonsense sub-brand.

According to the article, the C-segment, which makes up nearly a third of the EU’s new car market, is plagued by profit margins that range from razor thin to non-existent. High labor costs, consumer demands for advanced feature content and market saturation have all contributed to this situation. While VW’s MQB platform allows for significant economies of scale, their rivals aren’t in the same position. On the other hand, Renault’s Dacia brand can enjoy margins of as much as 10 percent (compared to 2-3 percent on average) thanks to low labor costs, spartan levels of equipment and the use of old, already amortized technology.

The middle ground for mainstream auto makers lies in something like the Citroen Cactus. The Cactus looks chic, but has a number of innovative cost-cutting measures (like rear windows that pop out, rather than roll down) to keep costs down. Fuel efficiency is achieved through reducing weight rather than expensive, advanced technology. If the Dacia is the automotive equivalent of Wal-Mart, then the Cactus is something like H&M – frugal, but now dowdy. The fact that the Cactus uses the underpinings of a B-segment car, but is priced more like a C-segment car doesn’t hurt either.

Following this example for the Panda would be the most logical path for Fiat to take. The Panda name has a lot of brand equity, thanks to its longevity and the widespread acclaim it has garnered from both consumers and the automotive media. Not long ago, it was regarded as the best handling small car money could buy. But in the next half of this decade, the focus will have to shift on creating something that will make consumers consider a Fiat, when there are literally hundreds of other nameplates available. A Cactus competitor doesn’t seem like such a bad start.

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Marchionne: Fiat Will Never Again Be ‘A General Brand’ In Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/marchionne-fiat-will-never-general-brand-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/marchionne-fiat-will-never-general-brand-europe/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015962 Once a mass-market player in Europe, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne says Fiat will never again be as such. According to Automotive News Europe, Marchionne made the proclamation during this year’s Geneva Auto Show: In terms of the scope of a mass producer of vehicles, Fiat (brand) no longer offers — and it never intends to […]

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Fiat-500X-2

Once a mass-market player in Europe, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne says Fiat will never again be as such.

According to Automotive News Europe, Marchionne made the proclamation during this year’s Geneva Auto Show:

In terms of the scope of a mass producer of vehicles, Fiat (brand) no longer offers — and it never intends to have — a full range of product of the kind mass brands have. Fiat will lose its appeal as a general brand and it will focus on what it does best.

He adds that “the economics are not there” to keep Fiat in the mass-market arena as far as investments are concerned, and has no plans to claw back lost market share in Europe. As such, Marchionne has refocused the brand’s European lineup toward smaller cars like the 500 range, the Panda, and upcoming replacements for the Bravo and Punto.

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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.

IMG_0182

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.

Full gallery here

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.

IMG_0196

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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Review: 2015 RAM ProMaster City (with video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999922 Please welcome back Alex Dykes as our Road Test editor. Alex will be contributing reviews and video reviews at our re-launched YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe. Everyone has been talking about the Dodge Caravan being sent out to pasture soon, but there is a third badge-engineered Chrysler minivan heading into the sunset as well: […]

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2015 RAM ProMaster City Front-001

Please welcome back Alex Dykes as our Road Test editor. Alex will be contributing reviews and video reviews at our re-launched YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe.

Everyone has been talking about the Dodge Caravan being sent out to pasture soon, but there is a third badge-engineered Chrysler minivan heading into the sunset as well: the 2015 RAM C/V. Behold the replacement: the 2015 RAM ProMaster City. With industry boffins calculating that the class 1 cargo-hauler segment will explode by over 300% in the coming few years, Chrysler is getting in on the commercial action with another Euro model. While the larger ProMaster van is based on the Fiat Ducato, the smaller ProMaster City is an Americanization of the Fiat Doblo. Does the recently formed Fiat Chrysler conglomerate have with it takes to compete with the all-new and all-sexy Transit Connect?

Exterior

Outside it is hard to tell the Doblo and the ProMaster City apart. Both have dual sliding doors and rear 60/40 barn doors that open to near 180 degrees but most of the sheetmetal is shared. New DOT compliant tail lamps and headlights were fitted and the RAM logo and cross-hair grille were grafted to the long nose. Let’s be frank, the ProMaster City isn’t as attractive as the new Transit Connect which wears strong lines and Ford’s new corporate grille. The ProMaster on the other hand goes for rounded corners and a function-over-form front end. RAM boasts that the unpainted black bumpers can be easily replaced without a quote from the paint shop. Shoppers should note that top end models ditch this repair savings for body-colored parts. Style is usually a low priority for most commercial shoppers and the PMC’s funky looks are unlikely to be a turn off. The wagon version may be a different matter.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-005

Interior

Speaking of wagons, the ProMaster City Wagon exists mainly as a “why not?” statement. You see, every PMC starts life as a passenger wagon built by TOFAS (a sort-of contract manufacturer) in Turkey. The completed vans are then shipped to Maryland for “conversion” where the “cargo” vans lose their rear seats and gain a load floor. This is essentially the same process Ford uses to bring the Transit Connect to our shores and avoid paying the dreaded “Chicken Tax.” Because the vans are imported with 5-seats, why not sell a few on the side? That’s the version I had for a week.

It is best to think of the wagon as a utilitarian people and cargo hauler for the avid mountain biking family than a replacement for the American minivan. The difference between the PMC and the Sedona, Sienna, Caravan and Odyssey is stark. You won’t find a third row, fold-int0-the-floor seats, squishy plastics, rear entertainment systems, snazzy audio systems or leather rear captains chars with ottomans. Instead we have a commercial grade Euro-funky interior cast in shades of black and grey. The hard plastic dash and doors will withstand years of abuse and are easy to clean, but not as nice to touch as what you find in Ford’s redesigned Transit Connect.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2

Most of the PMC’s dashboard is lifted directly from the Doblo except for a new steering wheel with audio controls on the back, a new shifter and a touchscreen infotainment system. The gauge cluster is easy to read but the trip computer is unintuitive. Similarly the door release handles also function as the door locks and the electric door lock controls. That took some getting used to. Storage pockets abound but the cupholder count of two is decidedly European.

The Ford is more comfortable as a people hauler because it has a dual mission. You see, the PMC doesn’t need to compete with the Sedona or Sienna, because that’s what Chrysler has the Caravan and Town & Country for. Want a minivan? Go to the Chrysler dealer. Want to haul your portable poodle washing system? Visit the RAM dealer. Ford on the other hand is using the Transit Connect to compete in both worlds, for better or worse.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area.CR2

Cargo Hauling

For commercial haulers and the “active families” manufacturers are courting, cargo capacity is king. This is area where the baby RAM starts to shine. With 131.7 cubic feet of widget-moving space in the rear this easily beats the Nissan NV200 and Chevy City Express and barely eeks out a win over the long wheelbase Transit Connect. The RAM also manages to haul longer items thanks to a slightly longer box swallowing 11-foot items from the windshield to the rear doors, 9-foot items from the dash to the doors (after removing the front passenger seat) and 7-foot items from the front seat backs to the rear doors. You’ll notice something missing, there’s no 8-foot measure, and that is the area where every vehicle in this segment let me down, you can’t put a 4×8 sheet of anything in these vans. If you want to haul plywood, you’ll need a Caravan for that once the RAM C/V dies next year.

Loading a widget that’s 4-feet by 4-feet by 5-feet long with a forklift is a cinch thanks to the bi-folding doors, something that the larger C/V has lacked for a while. Sadly you’ll find the payload, although class leading at 1,883 pounds, is not any higher in real terms than the Caravan. This leaves a huge payload gap between the ProMaster City and the 3,922 pound payload of the base model ProMaster. In an interesting twist, the PMC uses an independent rear suspension and coil springs while delivering a higher load capacity than the NV200’s more truck-like rear end.

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Infotainment

Although uConnect 5.0 sounds like it would be a smaller version of uConnect 8.4 (the systems found in most Dodge and RAM models) it is actually an entirely different system. Based on a Microsoft O/S and not the UNIX-like QNX that runs the larger system, this software was almost entirely designed by Fiat. It started its life back in 2006 as Fiat’s Blue & Me system found in Europe but Fiat re-designed it to look like the larger uConnect system in 2013 and we’re starting to see it offered as Chrysler’s base infotainment unit. With available TomTom navigation, Bluetooth speaker phone integration and USB media / iDevice support, uConnect 5.0 is a perfectly serviceable head unit. It lacks the smartphone and voice command  functionality you find in the larger uConnect and upcoming revision of MyFord Touch, but it is snappy and easy to use.

Base PMC models skip the touchscreen infotainment system for a basic AM/FM unit with a USB port and four-speakers. Jumping up to the SLT trim adds the touchscreen as standard equipment and makes a 6-speaker package available. That limitation goes for the wagon model as well, in base form you get the speaker grilles but no speakers in the cargo area.

2015 Ram ProMaster City 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with 9-speed, Courtesy of Chrysler

Powertrain

Thankfully RAM chose not to raid Dodge’s compact sedan for the powertrain as Nissan did with the NV200, instead opting for the same 2.4L “Tigershark” engine found in the Chrysler 200. The four-cylinder mill produces 178 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of twist which easily outclasses the NV200 and compares well with the Ford 2.5L naturally aspirated and 1.6L turbo engines. Unfortunately this does not compare terribly well with the average American minivan like Chrysler’s own Town & Country at 283 horsepower. Admittedly the Town & Country is heavier, but the power to weight ratio is still better at the Chrysler dealer.

Helping make up for some of the power defect is a ZF-designed, Chrysler built, 9-speed automatic. (If you want to know more about the 9HP and why it behaves the way it does, check out ZF’s 9HP Transmission Puts Dog Clutches On the Leash.) The 9-speed auto gives the PMC the lowest starting ratio in the segment and the highest final drive making the bulbous RAM the fastest to 30 MPH and the most efficient at 75 MPH. The result is an EPA rating of 21/29/24 MPG (City / Highway / Combined). Should you live in state with higher speed limits the tall 9th gear is a serious advantage. I averaged an impressive 31 MPG on a 70-mile one-way trip with the A/C blowing, cruise control set to 76 MPH and 800 lbs of cement blocks in the rear. If however you commute is in the city, expect that number to drop to the teens.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel

Drive

When you compare the ProMaster City and the Grand Caravan, you’ll notice that the baby-RAM trades 850lbs of curb weight and 105 horsepower for 50% more gears in the transmission. The trade means higher fuel economy as I said, but notably slower acceleration with the RAM taking 9.55 seconds to buzz its way to 60 MPH. That’s Prius territory. Add a thousand pounds and any of these “class 1″ cargo vehicles will feel slow, but the turbocharger on Ford’s 1.6L engine helps it scoot to 60 nearly a second faster. The RAM still bests the 2.5L Ford engine and the Nissan and Chevy.

If you’re after exciting dynamics, you’re looking inside the wrong white box. The RAM has a better feel behind the wheel than the Ford, but raw grip is better over at the Blue Oval. The NV200’s leaf springs and wheezy 2.0L engine are the least exciting of the bunch, but the trade is truly the best city fuel economy. The better dynamics in the Transit Connect are not surprising since it is competing both in the cargo hauler and minivan segments. Is the RAM exciting? No. Is there steering feel? No. Can it out handle the Caravan in the left lane? No. But it can out handle a Prius on your mountain bagel delivery route.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View-001

And now we must address the glaring problem that hit me when I looked at the price tag. At $23,130 the Tradesman trim of the City is $1,735 more than the 2015 Grand Caravan AVP, aka the cheapest minivan in America. The Caravan isn’t the freshest minivan on the market, but the interior is still several steps above the ProMaster City. Dodge gives you a 283 horse V6 standard, it can swallow a 4×8 sheet of plywood, the factory payload is just 154lbs lower and it will tow 1,600lbs more. FCA does plan on fixing this, but the fix is killing off the AVP instead of lowering the ProMaster City’s price. This value problem is not unique to the RAM however as the Transit is also more expensive than the AVP. Admittedly suggesting the passenger version of the Caravan over the ProMaster City is “missing the point” a little, but the wagon variant we tested widens the gap to nearly $3,000. If your cash is on the line, my best advice is to skip both the ProMaster City and the Transit Connect and get a Caravan AVP while you can. As long as you don’t need the barn doors in the back or don’t mind a DIY conversion, the discount Dodge is the most compelling option.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.8 Seconds

0-60: 9.55 Seconds

Average economy: 24.3 MPG over 486 miles

 

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-3/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-3/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 14:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1002290 Will the steady procession of Fiat 124 Spiders into America’s self-service wrecking yards never cease? So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, this ’80, and now yet another sporty little Fiat from the Malaisiest year of them all. Here’s a beat-up but not […]

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04 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill the steady procession of Fiat 124 Spiders into America’s self-service wrecking yards never cease? So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, this ’80, and now yet another sporty little Fiat from the Malaisiest year of them all. Here’s a beat-up but not hopeless example I spotted in Northern California.
01 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinUnlike its MGB competitor (then on its last year of production), you could get the 1980 124 Sport Spider with factory fuel injection. 80 horsepower, which today’s American car buyers would consider unacceptable in a lawn tractor.
05 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior yielded some good stuff to a lucky Fiat owner, looks like.
08 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars rusted even in California, but this one looks solid.

01 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Fiat 500 Love Affair: Over In Canada, At a Passionate Peak In Mexico http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/fiat-500-love-affair-canada-passionate-peak-mexico/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/fiat-500-love-affair-canada-passionate-peak-mexico/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 12:45:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=997650 Fiat 500 sales plunged to an all-time low in Canada in January 2015, falling 69% to just 148 units. To be honest, 500 sales were lower in Canada on one occasion. In February 2011, only nine were sold. Then again, the 500 didn’t truly began to trickle into dealers until the following month. Canadian sales […]

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2015 Fiat 500 RibelleFiat 500 sales plunged to an all-time low in Canada in January 2015, falling 69% to just 148 units. To be honest, 500 sales were lower in Canada on one occasion. In February 2011, only nine were sold. Then again, the 500 didn’t truly began to trickle into dealers until the following month.

Canadian sales of the 500 were at their strongest in 2012, when volume increased on a year-over-year basis every month and the 500 twice crested the four-digit barrier. In fact, the Fiat 500 ranked among Canada’s 20 best-selling cars in both March and April of 2012.

With the 500L sharing some of the Italian spotlight in the latter portion of 2013, 500 sales dropped 20% in 2013, a record-setting year for the Canadian auto industry. In 2014, another record-setting year for the industry, and with the 500 completing nearly four full years of Canadian availability, sales plunged a further 18%.

Third-quarter sales in 2014 were down 27%. Fourth-quarter volume slid 22%.

Over the last three months, only 598 500s have been sold in Canada. During the same period, FCA Canada sold 1014 copies of the Dodge Dart, a car which is suffering from its own chronic popularity decrease. (November-January Dart sales are down 62%.)

Fiat 500 North American sales chartOne would have guessed that Canada would be home to Fiat popularity in North America. And one would have been correct, at least initially. (Although the U.S. market is typically eight-to-ten times stronger than the Canadian, U.S. sales of the 500 have only been five times stronger since the car arrived. U.S. decreases haven’t mirrored the Canadian declines in their intensity, but they’re similar in terms of consistency, as the 500 fell 18% in 2013, 6% in 2014, and in nine of 2014’s twelve months.)

But while the Canadian market naturally favours more affordable and efficient cars and the Quebecers more specifically look fondly on even non-Euro subcompacts, the 500 wasn’t new when it arrived and it’s certainly not new now.

Meanwhile, the 500L is a dreadfully rare car, not just in comparison with, for instance, the Kia Soul, but the 500, as well. The 500X appears to be far more carefully targeted to modern tastes, both globally and in North America, but FCA’s own Jeep Renegade may stand in the way of initial 500X success. It won’t be a bargain, either, with all-wheel-drive 500Xs starting at $29,190 in Canada, before destination. You can have an all-wheel-drive CR-V for less.

Yet, there is a bright spot for the Fiat 500 in North America. With 511 December sales, the Fiat 500 set an all-time record in Mexico. One month later, with 422 sales, the 500 broke its January sales record.

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

The post Fiat 500 Love Affair: Over In Canada, At a Passionate Peak In Mexico appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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