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. Sat, 25 Apr 2015 17:32:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Fiat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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 […]

The post Next Fiat Panda To Rival Citroen Cactus appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
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.

The post Next Fiat Panda To Rival Citroen Cactus appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/next-fiat-panda-rival-citroen-cactus/feed/ 21
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 […]

The post Marchionne: Fiat Will Never Again Be ‘A General Brand’ In Europe appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
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.

The post Marchionne: Fiat Will Never Again Be ‘A General Brand’ In Europe appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/marchionne-fiat-will-never-general-brand-europe/feed/ 35
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 […]

The post Review: 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
IMG_0149

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

The post Review: 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-fiat-500-abarth/feed/ 88
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 […]

The post Dispatches Do Brasil: A 2008 Fiat Stilo Flex and the Search for Credibility appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
20150217_173555

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.

20150217_170320

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.

20150217_170254

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.

20150217_170242

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.

20150217_170529

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.

20150217_173828

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.

20150217_173544

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.

20150217_170155 20150217_170242 20150217_170254 20150217_170314 20150217_170320 20150217_170339 20150217_170529 20150217_170647 20150217_170656 20150217_170720 20150217_173447 20150217_173512 20150217_173544 20150217_173555 20150217_173609 20150217_173625 20150217_173828 20150217_173843 20150217_173850

The post Dispatches Do Brasil: A 2008 Fiat Stilo Flex and the Search for Credibility appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/dispatches-brasil-2008-fiat-stilo-flex-search-credibility/feed/ 52
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 […]

The post Lexus Takes Gold In 2015 JD Power Dependability Study appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
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.

2015 VDS Slide1_0

2015 VDS Slide2_0

2015 VDS Slide3_0

The post Lexus Takes Gold In 2015 JD Power Dependability Study appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/lexus-takes-gold-2015-jd-power-dependability-study/feed/ 54
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: […]

The post Review: 2015 RAM ProMaster City (with video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
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.

2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2-001

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

 

2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 3 4 view 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 3 4 view-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Gauges 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-003 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-004 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-005 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-006 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-007 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-008 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear Doors 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View 2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel

The post Review: 2015 RAM ProMaster City (with video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/feed/ 29
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 […]

The post Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
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

The post Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-3/feed/ 14
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 […]

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

]]>
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.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/fiat-500-love-affair-canada-passionate-peak-mexico/feed/ 34
Dispatches do Brasil: Volkswagen’s Inferno and the Gol’s Fall from Grace http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/dispatches-brasil-volkswagens-inferno-gols-fall-grace/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/dispatches-brasil-volkswagens-inferno-gols-fall-grace/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:27:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989258 How much is first place worth? How much difference would it make to you as an automaker to see a decades old tradition die? How much would you do to try to keep first place and how much would it hurt to see it all go away? Those are the questions Volkswagen do Brasil is […]

The post Dispatches do Brasil: Volkswagen’s Inferno and the Gol’s Fall from Grace appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
unnamed

How much is first place worth? How much difference would it make to you as an automaker to see a decades old tradition die? How much would you do to try to keep first place and how much would it hurt to see it all go away?

Those are the questions Volkswagen do Brasil is facing. Not being Brazilians’ favorite brand for 13 years now, falling away to third place, watching General Motors taking second and Fiat pulling away ever more in first, VW must now confront the reality it cannot even claim the most sold car title either. Costing them it is, after all the Brazilian press is having a field day analyzing Volkswagen’s fall from grace. It must also smart that the Palio edged the Gol by a little under 400 cars, while GM managed just 2,000 more sales overall than the Germans.

After 27 years as the most sold car in Brazil, the Volkswagen Gol ceded the crown to its main rival, the Fiat Palio. Not only that, the German company saw its participation shrink more than the others who make up the Brazilian Big 4 (Fiat, GM, VW and Ford). In traditional fashion, not recognizing their mistakes, Volkswagen do Brasil released a statement trying to explain:

“the Gol is a winner, having been the favorite of Brazilians for 27 years in a row. It is the most produced (more then 7.5 million units), sold and exported (more than 1.2 million units to 66 countries) car in the history of Brazil. Even in 2014, the model was chosen by 183,367 clients, a difference of only 0.2% (even with the exit of the G4 version from the market) in relation to its competitor (that is still maintains two versions of the car under the same name in its line: the old and the new one.”

This statement hides as much as it reveals. With the beginning of 2014, all cars in Brazil had to be sold with double frontal airbags and ABS. As such, all companies had to revise their strategies and Volkswagen started the year confident that the new up! would be more than enough to buoy the brand and take sales from the Uno, while the Gol would go head-to-head with the Palio. Fiat meanwhile took a different route, being that the old Palio Fire was a much more modern car than the its own old Uno Mille and VW’s Gol G4, it decided to go on building the old Palio with the mandated equipment, dressed it up in it pseudo-off road aventureiro decorations. It also revamped the new Uno, especially in its interior.

While both companies lost sales in a declining market, Volkswagen lost market faster than Fiat. While critically acclaimed, including by yours truly, the up! could not maintain the same fleet sales as the old G4. Fleet buyers became increasingly interested in the Palio Fire as it sported the same basic architecture as it always had and made use of time honored engines. VW meanwhile was launching a new three-cylinder engine with the up! and fleet buyers showed hesitation to fully embrace the new engine, as recent VW engine launches have been fraught with trouble.

Private buyers also balked at the new VW launch. The up!’s design was deigned to dainty for a Volkswagen and while it brought some conquest sales surely, VW-loyalists rejected the car.

Just as importantly, Volkswagen, making use again of their own time-honored tradition of not heeding to the market and not learning from the mistakes of the past, refused to acknowledge the emergence of the new Brazilian consumer who rejects entry-level cars. Aiming straight at that new figure, Chevy’s Onix and Ford’s Ka had a very big year and seemingly took more sales from the Gol than the Palio. They did so by offering more equipment for the same price and putting in some wow-me technology, equipment and better finished interiors (all of which is optional on ups!).

Fiat was quick to acknowledge this new reality. The Uno got a pretty thorough re-design on the outside and a completely new and better interior, not to mention new equipment and technologies as standard, leading the model to have a year of growth. The Palio did likewise, and in the new Palio line, extra equipment was added without raised prices, while the old Palio Fire got a new interior, some new exterior touches, and the all-important aventureiro dressing (plastic cladding, an extra inch or two of height, bigger wheels and tires, stickers, etc.).

As the year of 2014 progressed, the market increasingly saw Volkswagen in trouble. The up! was off to a slow start. The Gol’s redesign seemingly didn’t work (as VW should have known it wouldn’t if they were paying attention) because what the market was buying was equipment. The Palio was growing month over month. The Uno reclaiming its traditional top spots. Even better for Fiat the Strada was having a banner year taking the sales crown in February (the first time ever a pickup achieved this in Brazil) and finished the year in third place, the highest place a pickup has ever managed in the history of Brazil.

After the middle of the year the race between Gol and Palio reached a fevered pitch, with the Palio winning every month and outpacing the Gol’s sales by ever larger margins. As November ended, the Palio had managed a YTD advantage over the Gol of over 1,800 units. In a desperate measure and going against previously revealed plans for the nameplate, VW launched the Gol Special, special in its 2-door nothingness. Stripped to its utter bare bones to entice back fleet buyers, the Gol Special is in effect VW’s Palio Fire model.

In December, an orgiastic climax was reached. Volkswagen pulled no stops. As the first fortnight of that month ended, sales numbers revealed the Gol was edging out the Palio again. This was done with non-stop production at VW factories, writing off cars to dealerships as sold, huge discounts for fleet buyers of Gol G6 and Special models, exceptional financing opportunities to consumers and cash on the hood offers. Fiat reacted, and made use of much of the same tactics to defend the Palio’s lead. Both Fiat and Volkswagen have huge distribution channels in Brazil and both pumped out the cars in ever increasing numbers, saturating the market with officially sold cars that languished at dealers.

On December 31, 2014, the race ended. When the numbers were tallied a couple of days later, December went down into the history books as the third best selling month in the history of the automobile in Brazil. So much so that in a market that was plummeting by a little over 9% throughout the year, finished with a softer loss of 6%. More importantly, the Palio, old and new, had sold 183,744 cars. Volkswagen’s Gol moved 183,366. A difference of 378 cars. 378.

Overall, Fiat finished in first with 21% of the market and a total of 698,255 sales. Volkswagen had a participation of 17.3% and 576,635 units moved, which was good for only third place. General Motors managed second place on the strength of it almost all knew GM Korea line and sold 2,167 more cars than VW and had a market participation 0.1% greater than the Germans’.

As 2015 begins, January’s first fortnight numbers are available. The Palio, now that the market is cleansing itself of the dirty tactics of the last month of the previous year is kicking the Gol’s ass. It outsold the Gol by a large margin (7,600 to 4,500 in a very bad month), as did the Onix, second this month, the Strada in third, even Hyundai’s HB20 beat the Gol and is in fourth. The mighty, 27-years-in-a-row-leader Gol managed just fifth this month.

The week started off with Fiat announcing that the Uno and Palio will all offer air-conditioning in all versions, besides power steering, power locks and of course the mandated equipment, making them even more attractive to the more discerning Brazilian consumer. General Motors is pumping out the Onix and Onix-derived Prisma sedan in high number and is enjoying seeing its sedan outselling both Fiat’s Siena and VW’s Voyage. Ford is tweaking the Ka and watching its sales grow, planning for extra production capacity as the Ka gains more and more participation. Volkswagen is busy explaining the Gol’s demise and claiming no errors.

2015 will surely be fun. Except maybe for the Germans.

The post Dispatches do Brasil: Volkswagen’s Inferno and the Gol’s Fall from Grace appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/dispatches-brasil-volkswagens-inferno-gols-fall-grace/feed/ 47
Junkyard Find: 1978 Fiat X1/9 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1978-fiat-x19-3/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1978-fiat-x19-3/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 14:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=982969 The Fiat X1/9, like the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, is one of those old European cars that hasn’t held its value so well, which means you’ll see plenty of them in the sort of self-service wrecking yards that I frequent. We’ve seen this ’78, this ’78, this ’80 and this ’86 so far in this […]

The post Junkyard Find: 1978 Fiat X1/9 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
07 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe Fiat X1/9, like the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, is one of those old European cars that hasn’t held its value so well, which means you’ll see plenty of them in the sort of self-service wrecking yards that I frequent. We’ve seen this ’78, this ’78, this ’80 and this ’86 so far in this series, and now I’ve got another ’78 to show you.
05 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinBertone did the design on these things, and Malcolm Bricklin kept bringing Bertone-badged X1/9s in after Fiat retreated from the United States market.
01 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe running gear was Fiat 128 stuff, swapped from the front of the 128 to just behind the driver in the X1/9. Power wasn’t much, but the car was quite agile.
02 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThis one will go to The Crusher with the steering wheel lock still in place.

The incomparable, dynamic Fiat X1/9!

01 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 02 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 03 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 04 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 05 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 06 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 07 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 08 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 09 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 10 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 11 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 12 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin

The post Junkyard Find: 1978 Fiat X1/9 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1978-fiat-x19-3/feed/ 42
Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-2/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=979929 Once again, we are reminded that examples of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider have been a junkyard constant for my entire 33-year junkyard-haunting career. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, and now I’ve found another 1980 Sport Spider in a snowy Denver […]

The post Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
07 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOnce again, we are reminded that examples of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider have been a junkyard constant for my entire 33-year junkyard-haunting career. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, and now I’ve found another 1980 Sport Spider in a snowy Denver self-service yard.
13 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 2000cc version (actually 1995cc) of the Fiat Twin Cam engine was introduced for the 1979 model year, and it made 80 horsepower for the US-market 1980 models. The car only weighs 2,290 pounds, so 80 hp wasn’t as miserable as you might think. However, since Internet Car Experts seem to complain endlessly about how intolerably slow the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ is with its 13.79 horsepower-per-pound ratio (it is a lot of fun, in fact), contemplate this car’s 28.625 horsepower-per-pound ratio. Was it slow? Sure was! Was it fun? Yes! Was it reliable? Next question! Say, putting the trunk lock in one of the zeros of the 2000 emblem looks pretty slick.
04 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI saw this car when I went to the New Year’s Day Half Off Everything sale at a Denver wrecking yard, and it was parked right next to another 124 Sport Spider. That Fiat, however, had a lucky Fiat owner pulling just about every single interior and trim piece off it (a very solid ’78), so I concentrated on shooting photos of the not-quite-as-nice ’80.
02 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe instrument cluster from this one was gone…
IMG_2497…because one of my friends thought the gauges would look cool in one of his goofy race-car projects. Hey, half price!
10 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, the same Pininfarina that did this design did the Cadillac Allanté and Volvo C70.

01 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The post Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-2/feed/ 18
Chrysler Group Now FCA US LLC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962041 Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC. The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA […]

The post Chrysler Group Now FCA US LLC appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

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

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

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

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

The post Chrysler Group Now FCA US LLC appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/feed/ 20
Dispatches do Brasil: How I Killed the Sports Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-killed-sports-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-killed-sports-car/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:13:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949249 Reading here on TTAC that a BMW executive declared the sports car dead was a sad day for me. Yes, I am one of those who bemoan the passing of beautiful, personal cars like those, whether or not sprinkled with the fairy dust of power. I’m not talking Ferrari here, I’m talking simpler things, like an Opel […]

The post Dispatches do Brasil: How I Killed the Sports Car appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
1024px-Fiat_Coupé_Heritage_Motor_Centre_Gaydon_IMG_6600

Reading here on TTAC that a BMW executive declared the sports car dead was a sad day for me. Yes, I am one of those who bemoan the passing of beautiful, personal cars like those, whether or not sprinkled with the fairy dust of power. I’m not talking Ferrari here, I’m talking simpler things, like an Opel Tigra, or a Ford Puma, maybe even an old VW Karmann Ghia or a fiberglass, old Beetle motivated, Brazilian Puma GT. Cars like those allowed their everyday owners, with common pocketbooks, to dream of performance and a more enchanted life, in spite of sometime ordinary engines, as their designs were always something else.

Reflecting on the implications of the assertion I remembered that day. That day I had my favorite mainstream-make, exotic–inspired, common-hardware-bundled-up-in-a-an-affordable-package car all to myself. And thinking on that drive made me realize I’m partially responsible for this CUV-dominated, ignonimous state of affairs. You see, instead of living out my playboy fantasies, I decided to live out a fantasy of another kind, more country if you will, and bought a Ford Ranger. My 2-year experience with that ill-handling brute can best be resumed thus: So happy the day I bought it, happier still the day it was gone.

The year 2000, recently divorced, I decided that my new marital status deserved something more fun than the competent, but staid, Fiat Siena. I was no longer a family man, I didn’t need 5 seats, and neither a trunk. So I started looking into other things. It was a good time to buy cars like these. Due to the sudden freeing of importations in the early 90s, there was an abundance of different used cars available, things that up until then were uncommon here. Basically I started looking into jeeps and sports cars. I test drove a Daihatsu Feroza, a Suzuki Sidekick, found them all lacking. That off-road type vehicle search led me to pickups and I thought the Dodge Dakota would look fine in my garage, though eventually I chose the Ranger for better ride and more commodious cabin.

At the same time, I looked into two-seater cars. I test drove an Opel Calibra, a beast of a car, but an interior so pedestrian as to be off putting. Drove quite of few of the Japanese, too, but really, none inspired me except the Mazda Miata and MX3. However, the fact that all the small Japanese makes were getting their butts kicked in the market and falling like flies made me wary. Also, I was looking for something fun, but not desperate and oh-my-big-winged like a Mitsubishi Eclipse or a Hyundai Tiburon.

Finally, one day, I saw it. A Fiat Coupé. I was aware of it, of course, keenly aware as it drew my eyes like no other. But the thing was so expensive when it was brand new, it had slipped my radar. Now a 1996 model was going for the same price of a 1998 Ranger. Buyable indeed. Serendipity struck and I got a call from a friend.

He had decided to sell his green Coupé. It had very low mileage as it was basically his weekend car. Better yet, he was going off to Rio to work for the day and he would let me keep his car all day provided I took him to the airport at the crack of dawn and picked him up on his return at night. Of course!

There it was. Looking for all the world like a small Ferrari, the quality of the design oozed from every angle. The front was aggressive, but not overly so, and the head lights, encased in that plastic shroud, called all eyes. The high intensity projectors were something new here and at night you knew it was a Coupé coming just from the beam of light it projected. The hood was long as befits a sports car, the roof low, but no way claustrophobic, in fact sight lines were quite good for that kind of car, especially to the front and side. Backing up did require care and a prayer to be sure.

The wheel wells are the coolest I have ever seen. Cut like a knife, it as chiseled and suggested power. The wheels themselves made a nice composition with those lines. The back, of course, wow, those round lights! That and their positioning, immediately put me in mind of a Ferrari. Not only me of course, the car was known worldwide as Fiat’s mini-Ferrari. All the way, it was quite grownup, no hint of a wing or an extraneous line anywhere.

Inside, oh my gosh! Difficult to describe the beauty. The external color-coded-metallic-finished stripe on the dash immediately drew the eyes. Quite unusual and striking. The gauges lit up in a deep red, suggesting performance, and the idiot lights were aligned in a tastefully set up strip below the gauges. The steering wheel was the only deception inside. Common to other cars in the Fiat line, it only distinguished itself by being bound in leather. The seats were big and a perfect balance between comfort and support. As the name Coupé suggested, the car was a 2+2, and in the back, a couple of bags could be fit or two children. Not that I cared much, but the trunk held 310 liters, about the same as a Ford Focus hatch of today.

Of course, the famous Pininfarina logo emblazoned that dash. At the time I believed the car was his work, though later research showed that the famous Italian design house “only” did the interior. The exterior had been penned by Fiat’s in-house Centro de Stilo, that was at the time commanded by a talented American, none other than the famous Chris Bangle of BMW fame.

So, I dropped my friend off at the airport and hit the road. I decided to take the famously curvy BR-262 highway. Known as the road of death, there is a stretch further out into the country that has literally hundreds of curves in the less than 50 kilometers of road. I wouldn’t have time to venture out that far. Starting from Belo Horizonte, I decided to go to Itabira. In that stretch of road there is the famous Curva do Sabão (soap curve), near Caeté, a curve that was designed wrong and due to the inclination, tends to throw you car off into the wrong direction.

Getting there I explored the breadth of the engine. Though later Euro versions used more powerful and turbo equipped engines, the Brazilian version used the same 137 hp, 2.0, 16v of Fiat’s own Tipo Sedicivalvole. Putting out the same horsepower as in the Tipo, in the Coupé the engine was reworked as to noise. It was amazing, and no 4 cylinder engine has the right to sound so good. The noises made will be forever in my head. I remembered reading in Brazilian magazine at the time that the Coupé made the 0-62 mph dash in a hair over 10 seconds and got close to 205 km/h at top speed. Due to the heavy traffic and limits of the road, I couldn’t get near those limits.

However, I didn’t really care. I was enjoying too much the curves and trucks along the way. Powerful enough to provide strong bursts of speeds, getting around the trucks, buses and other slow moving cars was a simple as dropping a gear and stepping on it. The precise steering and handling guaranteed that it was a point it and it’ll get there affair. The suspension was a work of art. It soaked up the imperfections nicely and never got unsettled. Disc brakes all around guaranteed the necessary stepping power.

The car’s behavior was provided by an all independent suspension. McPherson struts were used up front and in the back there were longitudinally-mounted oscillating arms. The back never threatened to break out no matter how fast, at least on this road and in the hands of this driver. The Coupé made short work of the infamous curve mentioned previously and I went back on forth on this stretch of road maybe 20 times. It was clearly overkill the setup Fiat used. I can only imagine how the most powerful Coupé must have been. The figures were breathtaking and the top Euro turbo Coupé used a 2.0, 20v, 5 cylinder engine, good for 223 horses. Imagine greater indeed.

As I headed back into the city, crossing it, finding the car pliable enough for city driving as well, I pondered on what to do. The car tugged on me like no other. Beautifully designed, comfortable, it had an unmatchable and undeniable presence, especially in this country. However, only about 1,300 had been imported into Brazil, possibly making maintenance a problem (though that proved untrue as mechanically it was similar to the much more successful Tipo). Also, I had just asked to be transferred back from Brasília to Belo Horizonte and moving could be a problem in that car. If I bought a Ranger, I could do it myself as I would only be taking clothes, books and such…

Besides, this one was green. Had it been blue or red, or better yet, yellow (the most striking color for it in my evaluation) I would not have resisted, I think.

Thankfully such cars as the Mini Cooper, Fiat Cincuecento Abarth, Volkswagen Beetle R, BMW M3 still exist and serve and enthusiast well. However, they are the opposite of what a Coupé was. The modern cars take an extraordinary engine and drop it into a common car. The Coupé and others like it did the opposite, they took an ordinary engine and installed it into an unusual car. Works much better for me.

Alas, the world moves on and there seems to be no place for cars like that (being PSA with the Peugeot RCZ and Citroën DS3 and Mazda with the Miata, exceptions) anymore. They live on in the memories of guys like me who saw them there, in the flesh, and lusted for them. We can only hope they make a comeback.

Excuse me now as I have to go. Let me hop into my Renault Duster and go pick up my kid.

 

The post Dispatches do Brasil: How I Killed the Sports Car appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-killed-sports-car/feed/ 73
2015 Ram 700 Newest Entrant In Mexican Compact Truck Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ram-700-newest-entrant-mexican-compact-truck-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ram-700-newest-entrant-mexican-compact-truck-market/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=939625 For some, the Chevrolet Colorado’s “technology and stuff” is just what they need in a truck. For others, however, the mid-size pickup’s footprint is still a tad too big. If you call Mexico your home, Ram has just what you need. According to Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah, the Fiat Strada-based 2015 Ram 700 hails from […]

The post 2015 Ram 700 Newest Entrant In Mexican Compact Truck Market appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
2015 Ram 700

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post 2015 Ram 700 Newest Entrant In Mexican Compact Truck Market appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ram-700-newest-entrant-mexican-compact-truck-market/feed/ 82
Dispatches Do Brasil: FCA Finds Its Feet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-fca-finds-feet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-fca-finds-feet/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:39:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938489 It’s pretty amazing how the world spins and moves forward yet people refuse to budge. Fiat consistently scores in or near the top of Euro reliability rankings, besting most if not all of the mainstream Euro makers as well as other competitors from other continents who, somehow, are given a pass in this area. It […]

The post Dispatches Do Brasil: FCA Finds Its Feet appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Fiat-500X-2-550x364

It’s pretty amazing how the world spins and moves forward yet people refuse to budge. Fiat consistently scores in or near the top of Euro reliability rankings, besting most if not all of the mainstream Euro makers as well as other competitors from other continents who, somehow, are given a pass in this area. It does likewise in South America. In terms of “fix-ability” it is among the most appreciated, being its corporate policy to share information with mechanics quite openly about its cars’ needs and selling every small bit as a separate part so that people need only change what needs changing, saving its customers money .

I go to the factory in Betim, Brazil, every so often and the place is always filled with Japanese consultants on the factory floor, not just in conference rooms and secluded offices, teaching and implementing more and more quality control techniques. Brazilian engineers I know personally go north and tell me of all the changes they are seeing at Chrysler Group, with leaner, more exact engineering being implemented, inefficiencies controlled, paint shops and water handling completely overhauled.

The place is a brute, the second largest in capacity in the world, being beaten only by a Russian AvtoVAZ unit. Receiving investments of almost 6 billion reais in improvements, it’s being expanded from a capacity of 800,000 cars a year to 950,000. While the expansion and renovation is happening, it will pump out over 700 thousand cars this year in a bewildering, complex environment. A total of 16 different models are produced there, from passenger cars to light commercial vehicles. The closest factory in terms of complexity in Brazil is a GM unit in São Caetano do Sul making a total of 5 models.

It is also a research and development facility, with the capacity to design cars from the ground up. When I go to that specific place, I see future Fiat products, engines and systems, Chryslers of all stripes and also competitors’ cars being stripped down and rebuilt.  The R&D facility received a portion of that investment money and is putting it to good use. Suppliers are often there, trying to fulfill Fiat’s ever-increasing demands on quality, all the while complaining that it’s impossible within the given budgets.

I also recognize the problems. Some of them are cultural others structural. I know the pressure is there to push the product out when sales are high, leading people to overlook some things they know should be addressed before sticking the quality control stickers on. It is not an easy place to work in if you are a supplier as Fiat is a notorious penny-pincher and will and does sit on suppliers demanding more from them at ever lower prices.

There also seems to be a problem with follow through and repetition. Italian and Brazilian culture mesh well in this regard. Improvisation does and can happen and I have seen condemned bits and pieces being stripped from cars while the same parts are taken from half-built cars. It is easy to see the havoc created upstream in the production, while at the same time the possibility for errors is ripe. Some of the initially condemned pieces are sometimes reworked, deemed good, and installed in other cars.

Brazilian workers and engineers are also notorious for not adhering strictly to a given procedure. While a Japanese worker has the reputation of repeating the same procedure for 40 years without question, workers and professionals in Brazil will often improvise, turning step 2 and 4 into just one, or doing what was supposed to be step 6 before step 5 and so on.

Meanwhile, in North America, perhaps surprisingly, Italian and American culture and business practices have also congealed nicely and even Wall Street likes what it sees. There are no rampant manifestations of dissatisfaction and major suits have had their fears of German-style merger of (un)equals allayed, being that American voices are heard and American butts are promoted and given positions of power. Further down in the corporate hierarchy, at the engineering levels, experiences and information are freely shared among engineers of all nationalities. The Italians hear the Americans and vice-versa and the result are cars improved by cross-pollination.

Southern Europe is slowly coming back, at a time Fiat’s plans are slowly bearing fruition. Key to its future, there are now Jeep products, like the Renegade and Cherokee, not to mention the 500X, confirming the event horizon of our own Derek Kreindler (henceforth nominated auto industry sage extraordinaire) and the “final” victory of the CUV over other car shapes as they seem to give people what they want. The Panda and 500 continue raising the flag in northern Europe for those who wish to go against the norm and don’t conform to the notion of German engineering superiority and overbearing market presence. In light of all of this, FCA head honcho Sergio Marchionne may be confirmed as the savviest auto exec in the business.

Alfa Romeo remains a work in progress, while Maserati sales show that FCA can still credibly build and sell a luxury car. With the upcoming Alfa and Maserati CUVs, Italian vehicles will grace in higher numbers exclusive country clubs the world over.

In the US, Fiat will remain a niche player with the 500 satisfying non-conformists, while the 500X could prove more adapted to local conditions. Fiats will also continue donning RAM horns and underlying and motivating Dodge and Chrysler cars and Jeep CUVs. FCA, in spite of the naysayers and doom-and-gloom merchants, keeps growing in the US. Chrysler Group has passed Toyota becoming the third largest OEM in that important and expanding market.

It is so easy to laugh and point at FCA products and buyers. It is also intellectually easy to step on them while they are down, ignoring all the evidence to the opposite. Taken in scope, the improvements and ongoing investments point only in one direction: Up.

Improving on already good reliability, working closely with the aftermarket to keep mechanics informed and up-to-date of the sometimes different engineering seen in their cars, keeping fingers crossed that nothing bombastic happens, FCA could be on its way to an event horizon of its own, selling cars on their merits and not just pricing, becoming a full-line maker capable of attracting and poaching customers from other makes, providing shareholders with nice returns, and creating wealth and employment the world over.

The post Dispatches Do Brasil: FCA Finds Its Feet appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-fca-finds-feet/feed/ 68
Paris 2014: Fiat 500X Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-fiat-500x-images-leaked-prior-unveiling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-fiat-500x-images-leaked-prior-unveiling/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=923289 The Jeep Renegade’s Italian sibling was revealed at today’s Paris Auto Show media day, and now Fiat dealers can breathe a sigh of relief: they’ll be getting a product that has a good chance of being competitive in North America. The subcompact crossover rides on the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, and may likely […]

The post Paris 2014: Fiat 500X Debuts appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Fiat-500X-2

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

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

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

 

The post Paris 2014: Fiat 500X Debuts appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-fiat-500x-images-leaked-prior-unveiling/feed/ 25
Capsule Review: 2015 Fiat Uno (Brazil Domestic Market) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914930 Launched at a time when the new car market in Brazil is relatively stagnant, the new Fiat Novo Uno is causing less of a stir compared to when the round square themed Uno was launched four years ago. There are no lines at dealers and people’s attentions are divided among upstart competitors like the Ford Ka […]

The post Capsule Review: 2015 Fiat Uno (Brazil Domestic Market) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
unnamed

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

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

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

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

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

Fiat-Uno-Attractive-2

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

Fiat-Uno-Way-3

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

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

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

unnamed (1)

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

Fiat-Uno-Evolution-13

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

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

 

The post Capsule Review: 2015 Fiat Uno (Brazil Domestic Market) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/feed/ 43
Fiat’s Renegade Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/fiats-renegade-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/fiats-renegade-revealed/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:29:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913362   What you’re looking at is the Fiat 500X, the sister car to the Jeep Renegade and the most important Fiat-brand product in memory. This leaked shot of the new subcompact Fiat SUV shows what Fiat’s third North American vehicle will look like. Expect it to use the FCA 1.4L MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine, along […]

The post Fiat’s Renegade Revealed appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
image_5_0

 

What you’re looking at is the Fiat 500X, the sister car to the Jeep Renegade and the most important Fiat-brand product in memory.

This leaked shot of the new subcompact Fiat SUV shows what Fiat’s third North American vehicle will look like. Expect it to use the FCA 1.4L MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine, along with front or all-wheel drive (though it won’t be as rugged as the Renegade Trailhawk’s off-road oriented AWD).

Why is the 500X so crucial for Fiat? Simple. The Fiat brand is struggling globally – its push into the American market has been less than successful, and it has little traction outside of South America. Fiat recently idled its Serbian factory (which produces the 500L) due to weak demand, and American dealers are crying out for new product. The small crossover market is the one global bright spot in the automotive industry and this is Fiat’s chance to capture some market share in the segment. The Renegade might be a little too bold, brash or “American” for some consumers both at home and abroad. This is FCA’s chance to give them an alternative.

 

The post Fiat’s Renegade Revealed appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/fiats-renegade-revealed/feed/ 53
Ferrari Boss Steps Down As Marchionne Takes Control http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ferrari-boss-steps-marchionne-takes-control/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ferrari-boss-steps-marchionne-takes-control/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=910106 Luca di Montezemolo, who has headed up Ferrari for over two decades and presided over record profits, has stepped down amid in-fighting with Fiat head Sergio Marchionne. After joining Ferrari in the early 1990’s, di Montezemolo led a campaign to revitalize Ferrari, bringing in a lineup of vastly improved products and putting their Formula 1 […]

The post Ferrari Boss Steps Down As Marchionne Takes Control appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
550x309xPCOTY-BestOf07-lg-550x309.jpg.pagespeed.ic.hG_dUe52Y8

Luca di Montezemolo, who has headed up Ferrari for over two decades and presided over record profits, has stepped down amid in-fighting with Fiat head Sergio Marchionne.

After joining Ferrari in the early 1990’s, di Montezemolo led a campaign to revitalize Ferrari, bringing in a lineup of vastly improved products and putting their Formula 1 team back on the road to success. Under his stewardship, Ferrari dominated the latter half of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, with Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and other motorsports all-stars working as one of the most dominant Formula 1 outfits in history.

In addition to their on-track success, Ferrari also found great financial success in the now ubiquitous merchandise licensing deals that were spearheaded by di Montezemolo, which has allowed Ferrari to maintain a lucrative revenue stream despite capping production of the cars at 7,000 units annually.

But that wasn’t enough for Marchionne, who publicly criticized di Montezemolo’s performance in Formula 1 this past week. Speculation is rife that Marchionne wants to expand Ferrari’s production volumes to help it compete with Lamborghini, which many fear would dilute the brand’s exclusivity.

On the other hand, the departure of di Montezemolo, who is credited with introducing milestone vehicles like the 355 (which replaced the dreadful 348), is being seen as a turning point in the brand’s history. Marchionne has never had experience running any premium brands, and Ferrari is one of FCA’s few profit centers. But many fear that this delicate balance will be permanently disrupted.

The post Ferrari Boss Steps Down As Marchionne Takes Control appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ferrari-boss-steps-marchionne-takes-control/feed/ 45
Brazilian Truth Commission May Sue Auto Makers For Crimes Against Humanity http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/brazilian-truth-commission-may-sue-companies-crimes-humanity/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/brazilian-truth-commission-may-sue-companies-crimes-humanity/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:30:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=909674 João Paulo de Oliveira found it hard to find another job after he was fired by Rapistan, a Michigan-based conveyor belt maker, in 1980. He was detained or arrested another five times until the Brazilian military dictatorship, that had successfully realized a coup d’état in 1964, and returned power to civilians in 1985. Oliveira claims that […]

The post Brazilian Truth Commission May Sue Auto Makers For Crimes Against Humanity appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
200903211336

João Paulo de Oliveira found it hard to find another job after he was fired by Rapistan, a Michigan-based conveyor belt maker, in 1980. He was detained or arrested another five times until the Brazilian military dictatorship, that had successfully realized a coup d’état in 1964, and returned power to civilians in 1985. Oliveira claims that no other company would hire him after he lost his job, and hge was constantly threatened by police. His crime? Being a union member at a time the military considered strikes as subversive communist movements.

Oliveira declares that he and many other union members suspected that private companies, including many auto makers collaborated with the state’s repressive forces. Apparently, his suspicions have been borne out.

Last Monday, September 8th, the Truth Commission, an organization installed by the federal government as an attempt to investigate human rights violations during those dark years, called the press to clarify and give their position on the rumors and news that have been circulating for days about companies collaborating with the State in its repression of labor movements.

According to the Commission, recently unearthed documents confirm that almost 70 Brazilian and multinational companies acted as “information sources” on union members and workers who were suspected of leading strike movements and of belonging to left-wing organizations. These documents contain name and addresses of the suspects as well as the names of companies that monitored their workers “in order to collaborate with the censorship and repression system during the last years of the civil-military dictatorship” in Brazil.

Sebastião Neto, executive secretary of the work group in charge of investigating collaboration between civilians, companies and military claims that, “Volkswagen, according to the documents, functioned as a sort of intelligence central of that group”. That group included other companies like Brazilian Petrobras, Engesa, Confab and multinationals like Ford and Ericson. They collaborated by keeping tabs on who showed up at union meetings, and exchanged information on worker movements and their plans for strikes and demands on working conditions.

Perhaps the most damning document as it hurt people on a personal level, was one found in the public archive of the state of São Paulo, dated 1981. In it are the names and addresses of some 450 workers and union members and the names of at least 67 companies that gave the information.  Among the auto sector companies charged with giving names are Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Ford, Chrysler, Scania, Westinghouse, Rolls Royce, Toyota and Toshiba, among other Brazilian corporations.

Lawyer Rosa Cardoso, coordinator of the Commission affirms that, “what happened in Brazil were selective arrests based on information given by companies. Almost 40 percent of those who were dead and disappeared at the time were workers.” According to her, even though the companies were not directly involved in the disappearances, these companies may be accused of crimes against humanity. “Arbitrary and illegal arrests and in places where torture happened are also considered torture in international law”. Such was the case as these illegally detained workers didn’t even have arrest warrants expedited against them.

The lawyer affirms the Commission will present in its final report by December 16. It will include two chapters reporting the persecution of workers and the unions, and the relations between companies and the dictatorship. To help clarify this aspect, Cardoso promises a public hearing where representatives of the companies mentioned in the documents will be called upon to present their testimony.

Being accused as a sort of coordinator of the collaboration between military and companies, Volkswagen has declared that they will conduct their own investigation. According to them, Volkswagen is the only large-scale company in Brazil that, so far, has made a public commitment to “investigate any and all traces” of collaboration between its employees and the military regime. According to a release given to the press, Volkswagen claims they are, “internationally recognized as a company that treats seriously its corporate history”. In Brazil, Volkswagen claims, “the company will deal with this matter in the same way”.

Other companies so far have not commented or have downplayed their responsibility. According to this article, dated Friday, September 5, Mercedes Benz claims that the company “does not confirm” the alleged collaboration and is “non-partisan and zeals for the confidentiality of employees’ data”.  Ford has refused to comment. Toyota and Fiat, who now owns Chrysler through FCA, stated they have no registers of the “possible abuse” that occurred back in that time. Toyota, thorough its local Public Relations department wrote, “We would like to remind others that we are discussing something that happened over 30 years ago”.

Reviewing all the information available a cynic might think the Truth Commission is only interested in reparations. A more generous person might believe that people are interested in revisiting the past to point out mistakes and not repeat them in future. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle and it seems evident that at the time there was a struggle in Brazil between those who wanted to keep the status quo and those who would subvert it. Workers and unions probably helped the re-democratization of the country along, while many in the military and civil society believed such actions were fundamental in thwarting a Communist takeover. Companies may have helped the military out of fear or ideology. It is terrible that people got killed or hurt. In the end, relations between civil society, labor movements and government will be better understood because of the efforts of the Commission and hopefully mistakes, on both parts, will be avoided going forward.

The post Brazilian Truth Commission May Sue Auto Makers For Crimes Against Humanity appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/brazilian-truth-commission-may-sue-companies-crimes-humanity/feed/ 81
A Look At Western Europe’s Most Popular Brands From 25 Years Ago http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-western-europes-popular-brands-25-years-ago/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-western-europes-popular-brands-25-years-ago/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 21:22:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904681   From The Machine That Changed The World and the Financial Times: a companion to our article showing a breakdown of the most popular brands in Europe today. While Volkswagen is still dominante, Both of PSAs nameplates have fallen from their former glory to be also-ran brands on the continent. Fiat, while strong regionally, has weakened significantly. […]

The post A Look At Western Europe’s Most Popular Brands From 25 Years Ago appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
westerneuropeautoshare

 

From The Machine That Changed The World and the Financial Times: a companion to our article showing a breakdown of the most popular brands in Europe today.

While Volkswagen is still dominante, Both of PSAs nameplates have fallen from their former glory to be also-ran brands on the continent. Fiat, while strong regionally, has weakened significantly. Rover no longer exists. Volvo is practically a non-entity.

On the other hand, the Japanese can no longer be lumped into a singular entity (Nissan is particularly strong in Europe, with the Qashqai and Juke), and the Koreans are wholly absent from this chart. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Kia are challenging some established European brands in their home markets?

The post A Look At Western Europe’s Most Popular Brands From 25 Years Ago appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-western-europes-popular-brands-25-years-ago/feed/ 12
Ram de Mexico Will Get Fiat Strada Based Small Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ram-de-mexico-will-get-fiat-strada-based-small-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ram-de-mexico-will-get-fiat-strada-based-small-truck/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 17:23:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=909386   Speculation about a Ram small truck based on the Fiat Strada has been rampant recently, and it looks like Ram is getting ready to move in that direction for the Mexican market. A Brazilian outlet is reporting that the Strada will be sold in Mexico as the Ram 750. The 750 will be offered […]

The post Ram de Mexico Will Get Fiat Strada Based Small Truck appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Fiat-Strada-Adventure-Aggressive-and-a-Spirit-of-Offroad

 

Speculation about a Ram small truck based on the Fiat Strada has been rampant recently, and it looks like Ram is getting ready to move in that direction for the Mexican market.

A Brazilian outlet is reporting that the Strada will be sold in Mexico as the Ram 750. The 750 will be offered in both single and double cab configurations and powered by small 4-cylinder engines.

Perhaps these were the Strada mules being tested around Detroit, and there were never any plans to bring a small truck to the United States. With UNECE rules and a totally different set of market conditions (as well as no chicken tax), Mexico is a much better place to import a small, front-drive car-based pickup than the United States. Or maybe FCA will surprise us all?

The post Ram de Mexico Will Get Fiat Strada Based Small Truck appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ram-de-mexico-will-get-fiat-strada-based-small-truck/feed/ 157
A Look At Europe’s Top Selling Brands By Country http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-europes-top-selling-brands-country/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-europes-top-selling-brands-country/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:30:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904657   From the Twitter account of Bob Flavin comes this map of Europe, overlayed with each country’s best-selling auto brand. Volkswagen, along with Skoda (and to a lesser extent, SEAT and Audi) are far and away the dominant force in Europe, with Fiat, Renault (and Dacia) trailing behind. Regionally, Audi is popular in wealthy enclaves […]

The post A Look At Europe’s Top Selling Brands By Country appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
BweQfPuCIAA4d7B

 

From the Twitter account of Bob Flavin comes this map of Europe, overlayed with each country’s best-selling auto brand.

Volkswagen, along with Skoda (and to a lesser extent, SEAT and Audi) are far and away the dominant force in Europe, with Fiat, Renault (and Dacia) trailing behind.

Regionally, Audi is popular in wealthy enclaves like Monaco, while Skoda dominates in Central Europe. Dacia is abundant in developing countries as diverse as Romania, Moldova, Morocco and Algeria while Fiat is tops not just in Italy, but Turkey and Serbia as well – countries where Fiat builds vehicles locally.

Popular brands in North America, like Ford, Toyota and Honda are much smaller players in the continent. While the Fiesta, Focus and other nameplates enjoy widespread success throughout Europe, Toyota and Honda are much smaller players. And most tellingly, none of the PSA nameplates (Peugeot and Citroen) are present. Or Hyundai/Kia, for that matter.

The post A Look At Europe’s Top Selling Brands By Country appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-europes-top-selling-brands-country/feed/ 30
Fiat 500 Sales Declines: 14 Months And Counting http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fiat-500-sales-declines-14-months-counting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fiat-500-sales-declines-14-months-counting/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:42:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=889810 After 15 consecutive months in which U.S. sales of the Fiat 500 increased on a year-over-year basis, U.S. sales of the Fiat 500 have declined in each of the last 14 months. Not surprisingly, the more recent streak began the exact same month in which Fiat’s large, less popular 500L arrived. During the former 15-month […]

The post Fiat 500 Sales Declines: 14 Months And Counting appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
2012 Fiat 500TAfter 15 consecutive months in which U.S. sales of the Fiat 500 increased on a year-over-year basis, U.S. sales of the Fiat 500 have declined in each of the last 14 months.

Not surprisingly, the more recent streak began the exact same month in which Fiat’s large, less popular 500L arrived.

During the former 15-month span, Fiat USA averaged 3746 500 sales per month. Over the last 14 months, that average has fallen 26% to 2773 units per month.

For the Fiat brand, the overall sales results haven’t looked that bad. After all, Fiat sells an extra 1117 cars every month by way of a nameplate that didn’t exist in this market before last summer.

Since June of last year, brand-wide Fiat sales have fallen in America only three times: in September, October, and November of last year, a period in which volume slid 14% even with the extra vehicle in showrooms. Granted, Fiat brand sales haven’t fallen often, but that doesn’t mean sales were high. This is a low-volume brand as it currently stands, with two niche products.

Taken on its own, the 500, not able to top 44,000 units in 2012 before a near-8000-unit decline in 2013, is on pace for fewer than 31,000 sales in 2014.

It’s not as though 2014 has been an especially bright year for passenger car sales. While the overall market is expanding for a dozen different reasons, car sales are up less than 1% compared with the first seven months of 2013. The 500’s 14% drop, following up on an 18% annual year-over-year decline in 2013, is harsh by the overall market’s standards, but perhaps not by the standards of like-minded cars.

Fiat 500 U.S. sales chartVolkswagen Beetle volume is down 30%. Sales of non-Countryman/Paceman Minis, naturally impacted by the departure of an old model and the slow arrival of a new one, have fallen 35%. (The 500 is currently outselling both the five-pronged Mini car range and the Beetle on year-to-date terms, but it did not do so in July specifically.)

Hyundai Veloster sales are down 4%. The Ford Fiesta (-7%), Kia Rio (-11%), and transitioning Honda Fit (-12%) understand the 500’s pain.

Did you believe that America’s interest in the 500 would so rapidly fade, or did you simply believe that the 500 wouldn’t rise as high as Fiat had originally hoped?

The post Fiat 500 Sales Declines: 14 Months And Counting appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fiat-500-sales-declines-14-months-counting/feed/ 112
Autoworkers, Agribusiness, and Algae: Toledo Back in Business, For Now http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/autoworkers-agribusiness-algae-toledo-back-business-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/autoworkers-agribusiness-algae-toledo-back-business-now/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 13:37:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=881618 Toledo, Ohio has just squeaked by a major environmental crisis. A toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie poisoned the city’s water supply, leaving over 400,000 residents high and dry for three days. Restaurants, schools and businesses closed, the National Guard trucked in water, and the governor declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile, Fiat-Chrysler had to […]

The post Autoworkers, Agribusiness, and Algae: Toledo Back in Business, For Now appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
toledoap632398392739

Toledo, Ohio has just squeaked by a major environmental crisis. A toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie poisoned the city’s water supply, leaving over 400,000 residents high and dry for three days. Restaurants, schools and businesses closed, the National Guard trucked in water, and the governor declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile, Fiat-Chrysler had to resort to creative measures to keep its Toledo Jeep plant running.

Operations stayed on track at the Toledo complex, thanks to some quick thinking by management, and the dedication of line workers. According to a company spokesman, the plant used tanker trucks and bottled water to overcome the crisis and keep 5,000 employees sufficiently hydrated. Even a short closure of the plant would have been bad news for FCA. The Cherokee and the Wrangler are among the company’s fastest-selling and most profitable models, accounting for a major chunk of the partnership’s recent run into the black.

With the ban on tap water now lifted, the worst of the crisis seems to be over. Even so, the threat to the Lake Erie watershed and the millions of people who depend on it still looms. Toledo’s water was poisoned with microcystin, a byproduct of blue-green algae. The toxin causes liver failure at fairly low concentrations. It’s difficult to filter out, especially at high concentrations. And it can’t be removed via boiling- that only concentrates the poison. In other words, it’s a public health nightmare and nearly as bad for business as a power outage. Preventing the blue-green algae is the only realistic prophylactic, which itself has been a decades-long struggle in the most polluted of the Great Lakes.

Blue-green algae primarily feeds off phosphorous and other organic pollutants. In the 60s and 70s, the primary source of these pollutants were the cities and industrial establishments on the Lake Erie shore. Untreated sewage and industrial byproducts choked the lake, eventually leading to fish kills and toxic blooms. The situation turned around in the 80s, after regulation and billion-dollar cleanups helped remedy the pollution. In the 90s, though, the situation began to reverse course. New farming techniques relied on heavy application of phosphorous and other fertilizers. This produced increased yields, but increased the inflow of organic pollutants into the lake. Zebra mussels also invaded the lake after 1988, producing more phosphorous and contributing to a vicious cycle of algae production. It wasn’t long until the algae blooms reared their ugly heads yet again.

               LakeErie

                  In 2011, Lake Erie suffered one of its worst blooms ever. Nearly a sixth of the lake’s surface was covered in algae, almost 2,000 square miles. Phosphorous was again the culprit, but it alone wasn’t enough to explain the bloom’s severity. Instead, scientists point to climate change: specifically, the warming of Lake Erie’s waters. Warm water combined with torrential rains produced the catastrophic algae bloom, as more pollutants washed into Lake Erie from farmland. Scientists now fear that a combination of pollutants and changes in Lake Erie’s ecology could lead to more frequent algal bloom events. Unless something is done to rein in the green tide, more drinking water bans could be in the future for the communities that draw their supply from the lake.

What does that mean for the regional auto industry? Several major auto plants and their suppliers operate in the Lake Erie watershed area, in cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Toledo. In addition, much of Lake Erie is a major commercial route for freight shipping. Many parts of the automobile production process are highly water-intensive, such as painting and steelmaking. Obviously, the standards for drinking water and water for industrial uses are quite different. But if a city like Cleveland is forced to shut down its water treatment system entirely in response to an algal bloom, it would spell big trouble for automakers with facilities in the area. The welfare of the workers is another factor to consider. Toledo Jeep dodged a bullet this time, but in future water crises it might not be so lucky.

The economic vitality of the Lake Erie region depends on ensuring the health of the lake. That became apparent after the infamous 1969 Cuyahoga River fire, which embarrassed Ohio residents and hurt the local economy. There’s been an enormous amount of progress since then, but new technologies present new challenges. Clamping down on the algae blooms is essential to ensuring the competitiveness of the industries around Lake Erie. The environment and the industrial world are never completely divorced from one another.

The post Autoworkers, Agribusiness, and Algae: Toledo Back in Business, For Now appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/autoworkers-agribusiness-algae-toledo-back-business-now/feed/ 70