The Truth About Cars » Fiat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:57:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 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 Fiat Adds Automatic Abarth, Young People “Don’t Drive A Manual Transmission” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/fiat-adds-automatic-abarth-young-people-dont-drive-a-manual-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/fiat-adds-automatic-abarth-young-people-dont-drive-a-manual-transmission/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:39:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788642
In a bid to boost sales of the Fiat 500 Turbo and Abarth, the two boosted versions of Fiat’s city car will get an optional automatic transmission.

Automotive News is reporting that Fiat will add the two-pedal gearbox in July, when the 2015 models begin production. While Fiat sold about 36,000 500s in the USA last year, around 5370 of those were Abarths, and Fiat boss Jason Stoicevich puts a lot of the blame on its manual-only configuration.

Speaking to AN, Stoicevich was blunt in his assesment of what was holding the Abarth back, stating

Frankly, [young people] just don’t drive a manual transmission,”

According to him, the addition of the auto could add another 2700 or so units to the Abarth’s sales tally. Overall, 500 sales have been down by about 13 percent year-over-year.

EDIT: 500 Abarth sales figures updated

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Junkyard Find: 1963 Fiat 1100D http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1963-fiat-1100d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1963-fiat-1100d/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782601 04 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOld Fiats aren’t uncommon in American self-serve wrecking yards these days, but the ones you find are almost always Sport Spiders— we’ve seen this ’71, this ’71 850, this ’73, this ’75, this terrifyingly rusty ’76, this ’78, and this ’80 so far in this series— but a Fiat 1100? This is a first for me.
01 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is the car upon which the beloved-by-India Premier Padmini was based, and it was built until 2001.
03 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis 1100D is very rough and the engine is gone, although it does appear to be relatively rust-free.
07 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car probably wasn’t at all out of place as a daily driver in Berkeley or San Francisco. Even today, there’s a ’58 Multipla getting daily street use in the East Bay.
09 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWorth restoring? Probably not. Some of the parts might live on, though.

Sadly, the Padmini taxis of Indias are being phased out.

01 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1963 Fiat 1100D Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Dispatches do Brasil: Spite, Murder, Road Trips, Police, Dreams and Growth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/dispatches-do-brasil-spite-murder-road-trips-police-dreams-and-growth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/dispatches-do-brasil-spite-murder-road-trips-police-dreams-and-growth/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776281 siena hl (1)

Last time I told you of the perfect legal, societal and media storm which conspired to make me let go of the car of my dreams. This time reasons of a more personal, and very human, nature, joined up to make the Fiat Tipo a car that never was to be mine.

The year was 1997 and my former wife and I were living in Brasilia, pursuing our respective dreams. We were doing well and on a family visit back in my hometown, Belo Horizonte. Lunch at my grandparents’ home provided me with a chance to get my Tipo after all. An uncle mentioned he was going to sell his 1995 Tipo. Though very happy with my plain Jane Uno, the idea of a larger, more powerful, even luxurious car was very compelling, given that my wife and I were doing well financially. In contrast to the 1.0, Uno that had manual everything and no creature comforts, the Tipo was complete, almost luxurious by 1990 Brazilian standards (1.6 engine, AC, power everything).

I negotiated a deal with my uncle. I wanted the car and his asking price was very reasonable. It was not bottom barrel, but it wasn’t the top of the range either. I believe it was about R$14,000 which would have been about US$7,000. As luck would have it, the car was in the shop for something minor, so I couldn’t take it right then and there. Due to my agenda, I would only be able to make it back to Belo Horizonte three weeks later.

Back in Brasilia, I savored the thought. I was living the dream. Everything was working as we’d planned, we were growing, and soon we’d be driving a car that would better suit our new station in life. Then, of course, it all went to naught.

About a week from our rendezvous date in which I’d hand over the money and drive back home in bliss, my Dad called. Uncle had called him and said he was reneging on the deal. Now he wanted R$16,000. I think greed got the best of him. And spite and anger got the best of me. Though the increase wasn’t too bad, my youthful spirit got the best of me. Vai chupar manga”, was the message I relayed to him. I’m pretty sure my Dad didn’t tell Uncle the second part of my reply.

siena (1)

I should have just let it go, but the seed had been planted. I was now obsessed with a new car. Looking around, I found a brand-new Fiat Siena 1.6 and nothing else, on sale in Belo Horizonte. Fiat had just launched the car and the official price was close to R$20,000. However, as this was 1997, the Asian crisis was in full swing. Brazil, though it never officially admitted it, was in a state of technical bankruptcy. That meant that after a couple of white hot years, where the new car market had doubled in size, sales had come to a standstill and soon took  a precipitous fall. That’s why I was able to negotiate the price down to R$17,500.

Negotiations were over the phone and took two days. They bought my used Uno sight unseen, trusting me on the condition of the car. The deal was closed at 6:00 PM on Friday. I got in the Uno and made my way down the 716 km road to Belo Horizonte. I got there at 2:00 AM. It was not an easy trip, as I was very tired at the end. The last 100km I stopped at every gas station to drink a Coke and gulp down a cold cup of coffee in my attempts to stay awake. Being that it was wintertime, I took advantage of the situation and cracked open the windows to use the cold wind as yet another way to keep my eyes open.

Saturday morning, I went down to the shop where they inspected my Uno and agreed that the car was as I had described and discounted the agreed upon amount from my new Siena’s price. As I was there, I talked them up and asked how I was supposed to get my new car. They had told me that the car was not in Belo Horizonte, but the car would be here early Sunday.  The shops usually claim they have an auto carrier truck to bring in the cars. Knowing something of the business, I knew this was often not the case. They confessed to me that a driver would be driving the car in. From where, I asked? Ituiutaba was the answer.

Ituiutaba? I knew it was far, though I didn’t know how far. The thought of my shiny, brand new Siena in the hands of some driver who would undoubtedly abuse it on the trip broke my heart. So, of course, I negotiated that I’d go to that city myself and drive the car home to Brasilia. Whatever, I’m young I can do it.

The best part of that Saturday was the afternoon at my grandparents. My uncle was surprised to see me there. I casually mentioned I had bought a new car. I even, ever smoothly, mentioned how the car I bought was brand new. I may even have upped the price a bit to rub it in. The look on his face was priceless. As to that Tipo, my father later told me it had taken him more than 3 months to sell it off, probably for less than what I had agreed to pay him, as the car’s reputation at the time was irremediably tarnished by the fire scandal.

Saturday night, I hopped on the bus at 10:00 PM. As I settled down for the 8 hour trip, I notice a suspicious drunk or drugged young man getting on. As I have never had much luck on bus trips, I hugged my backpack that much closer. I then dozed off only to be awakened by a high pitched screech.

A woman was yelling and the bus was doing a panic stop. The driver soon entered the passenger compartment. The woman was shouting that she had been attacked. Her attacker was the young man that earlier set off my internal alarms. The driver diffused the situation as best he could and calmed the woman down enough by taking the assailant into his compartment and after a half hour of this drama, off we were again. A short time later, the driver stopped again, this time at a roadside police station.

Almost 2 hours later we were off again, minus the rogue. The police had informed us before we parted that that young man was a fugitive. He was a drug dealer, rapist, and murderer.  Praying for more protection, I must have dozed off again as soon enough we were in Ituiutaba.

When I arrived, I jumped in a taxi, off to the dealer, and got my car from the dealer’s watchman. After another 500 km drive, I’d be home, in Brasilia. As excited as I was to be in my beautiful, powerful, 1.6 Fiat Siena (92hp, 10 more than the Tipo!), a nagging thought would not leave my mind. In Brazil, between purchase and the putting on of license plates, there is a “grace period”. However, this legal permission to driving without license plates extends only to driving inside state lines. To cross boundaries, permission from the each state’s transportation authority was necessary. I would be crossing 3 state lines that day.

For the moment though, I was relishing my car. The smell of a new car is, in my mind, second only to a newborn baby. This was my first sedan. A grown up car for me, my first at 26 years of age. To me it was beautiful and though it had nothing else, it did have that 1.6 engine. Yes!

Off we go. In Minas Gerais State, no problem. Crossed over into Goiás state. No police. I consoled myself saying, this is just a regular Sunday, no holiday, there’ll be no police. I concentrated on breaking the car in. Tried to keep it at a steady 110-120 km/h clip. Constant speed was the key to a successful beak in, I was told.

A little more than halfway to Brasilia, I saw them, the police. They saw me too and, of course, waved me to stop. Mentally reciting the lines I had practiced so many times, I prepared for the worst. There I was, in the middle of nowhere, with no documentation, but a bill of sales, trying to imagine a way to talk my way out of trouble. I stopped, the two cops came. Interestingly, the coppers were smiling. I was too worried to notice at first, but I kept my cool. I hold my tongue, let them take the first step.

“Good afternoon!”, I reply the same. The smiles linger, “hey, look sir, is that the new Siena?”. Yes, yes it is I reply. “Can we check it out?”, they ask. “Of course, of course!”, I almost cry. They check the car out, get in it, examine the huge trunk, congratulate me on my purchase and wish me a safe trip, “have a good trip, sir.” All I can do is pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary and thank my lucky stars.

Looking back, with the experience I have now, I should have just paid off my uncle. I would have gotten a better, more comfortable car for less money. Between the heat of youth and the relative calm of my middle age, I see the folly of what I did. I spent more, for a lesser car. However, if I had done that, I would not have been able to tell the story I am relating to you today. Putting a price on experience is tough, if not impossible.

And so is realizing that the Tipo will always be the car that slipped through my grasp.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Law, Society, Media and Fires. Consumers Are Just Dust in the Wind http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/dispatches-do-brasil-law-society-media-and-fires-consumers-are-just-dust-in-the-wind/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/dispatches-do-brasil-law-society-media-and-fires-consumers-are-just-dust-in-the-wind/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:58:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776257 tipo-fire

The year was 1995. The country: Brazil. A new Constitution had been proclaimed a few years before, and our fledgling democracy had survived a presidential impeachment. Society was growing up and demanding new, more transparent relations with big business. The car market was more open than it had been since the 1950′s,  and due to the deluge of imported cars, that brief window would soon close. I was there, in the eye of a hurricane, looking to buy my very first car with my own money. All those factors made up the perfect storm, which conspired to pull me away from the car of my dreams.

That car was the Fiat Tipo. Due to the economic shock tactics of the now-impeached President, Fiat imported it to Brazil by the boatload and it even became the sales leader for a month or two in 1995, the only time an import has ever topped the charts in Brazil. Offering great looks, lots of space, generous features list, a very sporty and comfortable ride, and, perhaps more importantly, a price that undercut the competition, the Tipo was the hottest car at the time. It had everything one could want, and seemed destined to become the most sold car that year and the foreseeable future. Then, disaster struck. Tipos were self-immolating at alarming rates, all over Brazil.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Taking advantage of the new possibilities the Constitution and a brand-new Code of Consumers’ Protection and Defensean association of owners was created (AVITIPO – Association of Tipo Victims). The mainstream media took it up with a vengance. As it was, a new type of collective lawsuit demanding reparations of civil responsibilities, made possible by the Constitution and the new Code, was to be tested. Anyone who had a Tipo that had caught fire, irrespective of joining the association, would be entitled to moral and material damage from Fiat, if the Italian company was found guilty.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Fanning the flames of the growing fire, Fiat fought it. They had not perceived the Brazilian world they were working in had changed as evidenced by the new Constitutional and Consumer Code dispositions. They did not anticipate that the media would make this the litmus test of the new Brazil that had come out of a painful process of re-establishing liberal democracy. At first, they dragged their feet. They claimed there was no problem with the car. After a couple of months, with the pressure mounting and sales plummeting, they finally acknowledged some responsibility. However, Fiat could not have been more inept. They blamed consumers, saying that the fires were the result of the habit of some consumers of washing their engines with kerosene, which would affect the cardboard lining of the “hot air convergent tube”.

Click here to view the embedded video.

That did it. Societal fire around the case reached feverish levels. AVITIPO proved in the courts and, perhaps more importantly, in the court of public opinion, that Fiat had given the wrong solution to the problem. Association pundits proved that the fires were the result of a hydraulic power steering hose not coping with the pressure in the system when the wheel was at full lock in situatiosn like maneuvering into a tight parking spot. In this situation, a hose would come loose, and fluid would drip into the engine compartment, eventually reaching the beginning of the exhaust system under the engine and, voilà, a fire would ignite.

Brazilian consumers watched the drama in awe and disgust. Awe that consumers’ rights were effectively being imposed on unwilling big business and that the new Constitution had effectively given them new rights and powers against even the biggest corporations. They were also disgusted that such a big company could have been so incompetent as to not find the problem and so resistant to the new mores.

Fiat eventually recanted and recalled the cars to change the defective hose. It lost in the courts too, though they took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Consumers patted themselves on the back, as did the press, which delighted in its new role of the knight in shining armor for consumers. New legislation was put in place making the mandated recalls easier. Some companies, aware of the public relations fiasco, did indeed become more transparent and would not fight consumers as harshly.

Me? I never got the Tipo. Afraid of the fires, unsure as to what to do, in the middle of the howling winds of this perfect storm, I bought another kind of Fiat, an Uno, and was very happy with it. The whole situation made me realize how small we are in the whole process and how we go back and forth, mere pawns in the big money game.

I lost an opportunity to get the Tipo (a new situation would present itself a couple of years later) and regretted it. In the end, the solution was found, roughly 100 cars burned and owners were compensated. In its 4 year Brazilian career, Fiat sold more than 180,000 imported Tipos. Around 150,000 in its first two years. After the start of the melée, the last two years saw only 30,000 find their way into consumers’ hands.

In 1997, the Tipo went out with a whimper. I wince when I think of the car that got away from me.

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Smaller Jeep To Slot Beneath Renegade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/smaller-jeep-to-slot-beneath-renegade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/smaller-jeep-to-slot-beneath-renegade/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766177 Jeep-Renegade-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fiat, Abarth Likely To Receive Mazda-Based Roadster Over Alfa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/fiat-abarth-likely-to-receive-mazda-based-roadster-over-alfa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/fiat-abarth-likely-to-receive-mazda-based-roadster-over-alfa/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 19:19:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764089 2011_Mazda_MX-5_PRHT_--_04-28-2011

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

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

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

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

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2015 Jeep Renegade: 9-Speeds And A Manual-Only Powertrain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-jeep-renegade-9-speeds-and-a-manual-only-powertrain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-jeep-renegade-9-speeds-and-a-manual-only-powertrain/#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 19:30:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=759417 2015-jeep-renegade

 

Our friends at Jalopnik published the first decent photo of the new Jeep Renegade – which shares a platform with the Fiat 500X and replaces the Jeep Patroit/Compass – but kudos to Autoblog for publishing tiny thumbnails of the Trailhawk’s rear end (above is the Trailhawk) and the standard model’s front end. Both are in the gallery below. UPDATE: Two more photos added.

Our sources tell us that North America will get a 1.4T powered version with a 6-speed manual as the sole transmission option. The other engine will be the familiar 2.4L 4-cylinder with a 9-speed automatic. Reports claim that some kind of removable roof will be an option as well.

2015-jeep-renegade-1-1 2015-jeep-renegade-trailhawk-01-1 2015-jeep-renegade ku-xlarge ku-xlarge (1) ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1976 Fiat 124 Sport Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1976-fiat-124-sport-spider/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1976-fiat-124-sport-spider/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753777 06 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo many Fiat 124 Sport Spiders get junked, and the process has been going on for my entire junkyard-prowling career. In the three years of this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80, and we might as well add the 124′s little brother, this ’71 850 Sport Spider. I don’t even photograph every 124 Sport Spider I see, because they’re almost as common in wrecking yards as ’85 Camrys. Today’s ’76, however, holds the Junkyard Find record for Scariest California Beach Neighborhood Rust.
13 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCars that live within a block or two of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California (I found this car in one of my favorite East Bay yards during a recent drive around California in a new Mirage) often rust in a weird top-down pattern. For example, the truly frightening ’84 Toyota Van we saw last October. California cars with bad weatherstripping often rust inside the trunk, as water leaks in and sits for months during the long, rainy winters. This Fiat managed to rot from both types of California rust.
01 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow does this even happen?
17 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car comes from the era of separate emissions requirements for new cars sold in California.
10 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI have quite a collection of these SLOW DOWN lights, which were used to warn of an overheating catalytic converter (presumably the CATALYST indicator light warned of some other cat problem). Ferrari 328s had them, too.
14 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDefinitely not worth restoring, but maybe someone will grab the Twin Cam engine for a nicer Fiat.
IMG_2237Given how cheap these cars are, we see surprisingly few 124 Sport Spiders in the 24 Hours of LeMons. I can think of a couple of Twin Cam-powered examples, and then there’s the Volkswagen TDI-powered Smokey Unit Fiat. This car is pretty quick, but its real advantage in endurance racing is its tremendous range on a tank of diesel.
19 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last owner of this Fiat was against Proposition 86.

01 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Only Select Fiat Dealers Will Get Alfa Romeo Franchises http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/only-select-fiat-dealers-will-get-alfa-romeo-franchises/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/only-select-fiat-dealers-will-get-alfa-romeo-franchises/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753569 Alfa Romeo 4C

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is set to bring Alfa Romeo back into the United States market after a two-decade absence with the 4C, but only the best-performing Fiat dealerships will be selected to sell the first new Alfas when the lighweight $60,000 sports car rolls off the dock in June.

The Detroit News reports the majority of Fiat dealerships who were promised an Alfa wing will not be along for the ride in 2014. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne stated that his company would only allow “the best-performing Fiat dealers to participate” based on “simple dealer metrics” and efficacy in representing Fiat. Though he also added that said dealers knew who they were, FCA spokesman Rick Deneau countered his boss’s statement, saying that those dealers “have not been identified yet.”

While the 4C will be the only Alfa offering available this year, it will be joined in 2015 by the Giulia, Giulietta and a new Spider co-developed with Mazda, which will also underpin the latter’s new MX-5 roadster. The 4C is motivated by a turbocharged four-pot driving 240 horses out of the back gate, pushing the 1875-pound sports car from naught to 60 in 4.5 seconds.

However, follow-through hasn’t been FCA’s strong suit regarding Alfa’s return, with the brand originally promised to Fiat dealers in 2012, then last year before settling upon June 2014. The return was also promised to come with a full lineup to display in showrooms, but only the 4C will be setting the pace this year as it goes up against the Porsche Cayman and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

According to IHS Automotive, selected Fiat dealers will move 500 4Cs in 2014, with 8,400 more in 2015 once more dealers join the fray. IHS also expects Alfa to move 28,000 units in the U.S. by the end of 2016.

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Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 4×4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739825 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002

The folks at Jeep have known for some time that high volume on-road models have to be part of the mix to keep low volume off-road models viable. From the 1946 Willys Station Wagon and the original Wagoneer, to the Grand Cherokee and the Compass, Jeep has been on a steady march towards the word no Wrangler owner wants to hear: “crossover”. Their plan is to replace the off-road capable Liberty and compete with the RAV4, CR-V and 20 other small crossovers with one vehicle: the 2014 Cherokee.

With two ambitious (and contradictory) missions and unconventional looks, the Cherokee has turned into one of the most polarizing cars in recent memory. It is therefore no surprise the Cherokee has been getting mixed reviews. USA Today called it “unstoppable fun” while Consumer Reports called it “half baked” with a “choppy ride and clumsy handling.” Our own Derek Kreindler came away disappointed with its on-road performance at the launch event, though he had praise for the Cherokee’s off-road capabilities. What should we make of the glowing reviews, and the equally loud dissenting voices?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I’ve always said styling is a personal preference and although the Cherokee is far from my cup of tea, I’m glad Chrysler decided to color outside the lines. The “bent” 7-slot grill still strikes me as peculiar, but what made me scratch my head more is the lighting. You’ll find the headlamps in the middle of the bumper cover behind a smoked plastic lens, while the daytime running lamps and turn signals live in a separate module high up on the front, Meanwhile, the fog lamps are nestled at the bottom of the bumper. Out back the Cherokee is far more mainstream with a fairly plain (and very vertical) rear hatch. Overall the looks are certainly striking and unmistakable, I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing.

The Cherokee is “kinda-sorta” based on the Dodge Dart which itself is more-or-less a stretched and widened Alfa Romeo Giulietta. While some Jeep fans call any car-based Jeep heresy, the Cherokee isn’t the first car/SUV hybrid at Jeep and it won’t be the last. The side profile, specifically the front overhang, is where the Cherokee’s dual mission starts to show. A transverse mounted engine creates a long overhang compared to a traditional RWD SUV. This isn’t a problem in the Patriot, which has much lower aspirations, but does pose a problem for “the off-road crowd.” To compensate, the Cherokee rides higher than the competition (7.8 to 8.8 inches) and uses two different bumper designs. Sport, Latitude and Limited trims get a more traditional (if you can call it that) bumper design with a fairly flat front while Trailhawk models pull the bottom of the bumper up to allow a 50% better approach angle and causing a “wedge-like” front profile. Out back similar changes to the rear bumper improve the Trailhawk’s departure angle.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-004

Interior

While the Grand Cherokee continues it’s mission as the “American Range Rover,” anyone looking for the Cherokee to be the “American Evoque” is going to be disappointed. Even so, I found the the interior to be class leading in many ways, with more soft touch plastics than you’ll find in the competition. Chrysler fitted the Grand Cherokee’s chunky steering wheel to the smaller Jeep which gives the cabin a more premium feel. Most Cherokees on dealer lots will have a leather wrapped wheel, but base models get a urethane tiller. The Cherokee retains the optional steering wheel heater from the Grand Cherokee, but ditches the paddle shifters.

The wide front seats are deeply padded, supportive and easily the best in the segment in terms of comfort. Thankfully, the engineers ditched the “dome-shaped” bottom cushion found in other Chrysler products allowing you to sit “in” the seats, not “on” the seats. Most models get a fold-flat front passenger seat improving cargo versatility, but that option is incompatible with the optional “ventilated front seats and multi-way with four-way power lumbar support” package for the front passenger.

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Although not as comfortable as the front, the second row is easily the most comfortable in the segment. Seat cushions are thickly padded, recline, and slide fore/aft to adjust the cargo area dimensions. (Or get a child seat closer.) The Cherokee offers two inches more rear legroom than CR-V, three more than RAV4 and nearly four inches more than Escape. The seat bottom cushions also ride higher off the ground so adults won’t feel like they have their knees in their chest.

Because of the need for off-road-capable departure angles and ground clearance, a compromise had to be made and I found it behind the [optional] power tailgate. The Cherokee suffers from the smallest cargo hold among its target cross-shops by a wide margin at 24.8 cubic feet. The next smallest entry (the CX-5) will hold over 40% more behind the second row (34 cubes) while the Rogue’s generous booty will swallow 40 cubic feet of whatever. Note: The Cherokee’s spec sheet lists cargo capacity at 29.7 cubic feet but that measurement is taken with the 2nd row adjusted all the way forward in its tracks which cuts rear legroom down to well below the competition.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior uConnect 8.4

Infotainment

Depending on trim level, you’ll find two different systems in the dash. Things start out with uConnect 5.0 in the Sport and Latitude. Running on a Microsoft OS (like Ford SYNC), this unit is more sluggish than the UNIX-based 8-inch system but offers many of the same features excluding navigation. While other Chrysler/Fiat models with uConnect 5.0 have the option to add TomTom navigation at a later date, that doesn’t seem to apply here. The touchscreen features full USB/iPod integration, optional XM satellite radio and a Bluetooth speakerphone in addition to acting as the climate control display and seat heater controls. Sound thumps out via 6-standard speakers, and you can pay $200 for an optional CD player if you haven’t joined the 2st century.

Optional on Latitude and standard on Limited/Trailhawk is the 8-inch QNX UNIX based “uConnect 8.4.” The system features polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. All the features you expect from a connected car are standard, from voice commands for USB/iDevice control to smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart or Slacker. You can have text messages read to you, dictate replies and search for restaurants or businesses via Yelp. In addition to the smartphone-tied features, it integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store.” Since there’s a cell modem on-board, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices. Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services from traffic updates to fuel prices. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports.

For an extra $795 you can add Garmin’s navigation software to the system and Chrysler tells us that the nav software can be added after purchase. Our tester had the $395 optional 9-speaker sound system with a subwoofer. Sound quality ranged from average with the standard 6-speaker setup to excellent with the optional speakers. Unfortunately, the up-level speaker package requires you have navigation as well, bringing the price bump to $1190 if you were only after the louder beats.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine-002

Drivetrain

All trims start with Chrysler’s 2.4L “Tigershark” four-cylinder engine delivering 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of twist. Optional on all but the Sport is a new 3.2L V6 good for 271 horses and 239 lb-ft. Sadly we won’t get the 2.0L Fiat diesel on our shores, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to burn oil in your country, that engine delivers 170 ponies and 258 lb-ft of twist. Power is sent to the ground via a controversial 9-speed automatic designed by ZF and built by Chrysler. The 9-speed is very similar to the one used in the Range Rover Evoque although few parts are directly interchangeable.

While most crossovers offer a single AWD system Jeep gives you three options. First up we have a traditional slip-and-grip AWD system with a multi-plate clutch pack (Active Drive) that sends power to the rear when required. Jeep combined this with a “rear axle disconnect” feature to improve fuel economy. This is the system you’ll find on most of the Sport, Latitude and Limited Cherokees on dealer lots.

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Available on Latitude and Limited is Active Drive II which adds a segment-exclusive rock crawl ratio. Because of the way transverse transaxles work, this system operates differently than a longitudinal (RWD) system in that there are actually two two-speed transfer cases. Power exits the transmission and enters a “PTU” where power is split front and rear. Up front, power flows from the PTU to a 2-speed planetary gearset and then back into the transmission’s case to the front differential. For the back wheels, power flows from the multi-plate clutch pack and rear axle disconnect clutch inside the PTU to an angle gear unit which rotates power 90-degrees and connects to the prop shaft. The prop shaft connects to another 2-speed planetary gearset and then finally to the rear axle.

Engaging 4-Low causes the PTU to engage the rear axle and engage the primary low ratio gearset.  At the same time, the low ratio gearset in the rear axle unit engages. Vehicle electronics confirm that the system has engaged both units before you can move forward. Should you need the ultimate in off-road ability, the Trailhawk throws in a locking rear differential (this is the third system, called Active Drive Lock), hill ascent/descent control and various stability control programs for off-road terrain. Before you ask “is this a real low-ratio?” 4-Low is 56:1 with the 2.4L engine and 47.8:1 with the 3.2L. That 56:1 ratio is lower than anything Jeep has sold, save the Wrangler Rubicon’s insane 73:1.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-004Modifications

Being the owner of a Jeep with a minor four-inch lift kit installed, after-market options are near and dear. Of course RAV4/CR-V/Escape shoppers aren’t your typical lift-kit demographic, so for many of you, this section isn’t germane. Because of the Cherokee’s design, ride height modifications are not going to be as easy as with solid-axle Jeeps of yore. With longitudinal engine mounting and solid axles, lifting is an easy task up to around four-inches, at which point you may need to start thinking about new driveshafts and possible U-joint replacements. With a design like the Cherokee’s, anything beyond an inch or two can result in serious suspension geometry changes that have a huge impact on handling and tire wear. While it would be possible to design kits with four new half-shafts, springs and suspension bits that would lift and correct the geometry change, I suspect the costs would be prohibitive, so don’t expect much more than a 2-3 inch spring-spacer kit for base models and 1-2 inches for the Trailhawk.

Pricing

Most shoppers will be deciding between the Sport, Latitude and Limited trims starting at $22,295, $24,495 and $27,995 respectively for FWD models. Adding AWD increases the price tag by $2,000 and on Latitude and Limited and you can get the low ratio gearbox with a 1-inch suspension bump for an additional $995. The Sport model comes well equipped compared to the competition with that 5-inch infotainment system, auto-down windows and most creature comforts you expect except for air conditioning. You’ll find A/C in the oddly named $795 “cold weather group” which also includes heated mirrors, a leather steering wheel, remote start, heated front seats and a windshield wiper de-icer. At the base level the Sport is roughly the same price as the Toyota and Honda but adding the $795 package pushes the price comparison in the Jeep’s favor by more than $1,000.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-008

Latitude adds a standard 115V outlet, leather wrapped steering wheel, auto up/down windows, fold flat front seat, ambient lighting, A/C, steering wheel audio controls and fog lamps in addition to allowing access to the more robust AWD system, V6 engine and navigation. Limited tosses in power front seats, the 7-inch LCD instrument cluster (seen above), an auto dimming mirror, heated steering wheel, soft touch plastics on the doors, automatic headlamps, one year of XM radio, turn signals on the side mirrors and the ability to option your Cherokee up to $40,890 by adding self-parking, cooled seats, HID headlamps and more options than I care to list.

Then there is the Trailhawk. As the only CUV with a 2-speed transfer case, locking differential, tow hooks, off-road oriented software programming and all-terrain rubber, this Cherokee is in a class by itself. It’s also priced in a class by itself. Starting at $29,495 and ending at $40,890, the Trailhawk has a similar MSRP spread as the Limited but it trades the optional luxury items for off-road hardware.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-014

Drive

Chrysler decided to make the Cherokee the first recipient of their new technology onslaught. If you’re willing to pay, you can option your Jeep up with a full-speed range radar cruise control, collision warning and collision prevention with automatic braking, cooled seats, lane departure warning and prevention and rear cross path collision detection. The Cherokee is also Chrysler’s first self-parking car, and like the new Mercedes S-Class, the Jeep will back itself into perpendicular spots in addition to parallel parking. The tech worked well and is as easy to use as Ford’s system, although I’m not sure I want to live in a world where folks can’t perpendicular park. (You know, in regular old parking spaces.) If you opt for the ultrasonic parking sensors, the Cherokee will also apply the brakes before you back into that shopping cart you didn’t see.

Most reviewers are so caught up in the way the 9-speed automatic shifts. The truth is, hybrids, dual clutch transmissions, robotized manuals, CVTs and automatics with new technologies are only going to become more common and it’s time we in the auto press adjusted. If you want to know more about why the 9-speed does what it does, check our our deep dive on dog clutches. All I’m going to say here is that I got used to the way the transmission shifts and it never really bothered me.

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At 4,100lbs the Cherokee is 600lbs heavier than a comparable RAV4 or CX-5. The extra weight is caused by the structural reinforcements required for off roading. Unfortunately it causes some on-road compromises. Acceleration with the 2.4L engine is adequate but sluggish compared to the lighter competition. The V6 on the other hand hits 60 MPH in 6.5 seconds which ties with the 2.0L Ecoboost Escape as the fastest in the class. Regardless of the engine you choose, the Cherokee has one of the quietest cabins in the segment thanks to extensive sound deadening. All the foam comes in handy on 2.4L models as the small engine spends more time in lower gears thanks to the Cherokee’s heft.

Once on the highway the 9-speed automatic helped the porky crossover average a respectable 23.7 MPG, just 1.3 MPG behind the much slower RAV4. The economy is all down to the rear axle disconnect feature and the 9-speed transmission. By completely disconnecting the rear axle via a clutch, parasitic losses drop to nearly zero when compared to other small crossovers. The downside to this is that when the system is in “Auto” power is sent 100% to the front axle until there is slip at which point the Cherokee must re-connect the rear axle then engage a secondary multi-plate clutch to move power. This system allows greater economy but is much slower to react and adds some weight to the mix. To compensate, the Cherokee allows you to fully lock the center coupling and engage the rear axle at any speed by engaging various drive modes. Thanks to an extremely tall 9th gear, the V6 spins at a lazy 1,500 RPM at 82 MPH allowing a reported 25 MPG on level ground.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Wheel

The heavy and substantial feel on winding roads and reminded me more of the Grand Cherokee than your average CUV. Soft springs and well-tuned dampers delivered a supple ride on a variety of surfaces and the Cherokee never felt unsettled. However, those same suspension choices allow plenty of body roll in the corners, tip when accelerating and dive when braking. As with most entries, the Cherokee uses electric power steering so there is precious little feel behind the wheel. When pushed near its limits, the Cherokee delivers reasonable grip thanks to wide tires and a 57/43 (F/R) weight balance which is essentially the same as the CX-5. If this sounds like the on-road description of a body-on-frame SUV from 10 years ago, you’re not far off base. But is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Why? It’s all about the other half of the Cherokee’s mission.

With more ground clearance, a rated water fording depth of 20 inches, 4,500lbs of towing capacity and a more robust AWD system, the Cherokee can follow the Grand Cherokee down any trail without fear. Of course both Jeeps should be careful not to follow a Wrangler, as neither is as off-road capable as they used to be, but the gist is that both are far more capable than the average crossover. Jeep’s traction and stability control systems are different than what you find in the on-road oriented competition in that the software’s objective is to move power from wheel to wheel rather than just limit wheel spin. Competitive systems reduce engine power first, then selectively brake wheels. The Jeep system in “Mud” mode is more interested with keeping the wheels all spinning the same than curbing engine power. The Cherokee also allows the center coupling to be locked at higher speeds than the competition, offering a 20-inch rated water fording depth, 7.9 to 8.8 inches of ground clearance and available skid plates. While the Cherokee will never be as much fun off-road as a 4Runner, Wrangler, or other serious off-road options, you can have a hoot and a half at the off-road park in stock Trailhawk trim.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-015

If a crossover is supposed to be a cross between a family sedan and an SUV, the Cherokee is the truest small crossover you can buy. Trouble is, most shoppers are really just looking for the modern station wagon: something with a big cargo hold and car-like manners. In this area the Cherokee comes up short. It’s big and heavy and it drives like it’s big and heavy. But it’s not without its charms, the Cherokee is the only compact crossover capable of the school run and the Rubicon trail. It’s also the quietest and most comfortable crossover going, even if it is short on trunk space. If you’re willing to pay, it’s also the one loaded with the most gadgets, goodies and luxury amenities.

Is the Cherokee half-baked like Consumer Reports said? Perhaps. The Cherokee’s off-roading mission results in limited cargo space and vague handling while the on-road mission demanded a FWD chassis with high fuel economy. But it faithfully manages to give 99% of Liberty shoppers and 80% of RAV4 shoppers a viable alternative. Is that half-baked or a successful compromise? If you’re after a soft-roader to get you from point A to point B with stellar fuel economy, great handling and a massive cargo area, there are better options than the Cherokee. If however you “need” a crossover but “want” a go-anywhere SUVlet, this is your only option.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.15 Seconds

0-60: 6.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.75 Seconds

Average observed fuel economy: 23.7 MPG over 453 miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

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Moody’s Cuts Fiat’s Rating Down Due To Earnings Worries, Outlook http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/moodys-cuts-fiats-rating-down-due-to-earnings-worries-outlook/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/moodys-cuts-fiats-rating-down-due-to-earnings-worries-outlook/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 16:18:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=740041 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One-Time Tax Gain Nets Chrysler $1.6 Billion In Q4 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/one-time-tax-gain-nets-chrysler-1-6-billion-in-q4-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/one-time-tax-gain-nets-chrysler-1-6-billion-in-q4-2013/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=727898 FCA - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

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

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

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

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

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

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Marchionne’s Choice of Fiat-Chrysler HQ Weighs Political Realities Against Lower Taxes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/marchionnes-choice-of-fiat-chrysler-hq-weighs-political-realities-against-lower-taxes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/marchionnes-choice-of-fiat-chrysler-hq-weighs-political-realities-against-lower-taxes/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 15:55:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=726994 19e1m34hoia1ojpg

Now that Sergio Marchionne has succeeded in joining Fiat and Chrysler together, for his next act he’s planning on moving Fiat’s headquarters out of Italy. While such a move has tax advantages, it would present a political and public relations challenge for Fiat and Marchionne in their home country. According to Reuters, the new entity, dubbed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, will be a Dutch-based company with a UK tax domicile, while shares are listed on the NYSE with a secondary listing in Milan.

Marchionne is aware that locating the headquarters outside of Italy, where Fiat has operated for 115 years and has received government funding, or outside the United States, where Chrysler was bailed out by the federal government, could make waves and there is the possibility that the Italian government might intervene. “I’ve seen weirder things happen,” Marchionne said to journalists at the recent Detroit auto show. “So I sincerely hope they don’t create obstacles.”

The deal for Fiat to take complete control of Chrysler after buying the UAW retiree health benefits trust’s stake in the Auburn Hills based automaker was consummated last week and the result is the world’s 7th largest automaker, holding brands that include ,Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Ferrari, Jeep and Maserati along with the two corporate brands.

Marchionne is emulating what he did when he spun off CNH Industrial from Fiat: register the group in the Netherlands with a UK tax domicile. Marchionne has previously said that CNH Industrial will be used as “one of the technical blueprints” for Fiat-Chrysler. CNH is registered in the Netherlands, tax-resident in Britain and traded primarily on the New York Stock Exchange, with a secondary listing in Milan.

Marchionne, who trained as a tax accountant before attending law school by training, will present his plans to the Fiat board of directors today. Publicly he has insisted that moving the HQ and listing on the NYSE reflect “access to funding” more than tax considerations, saying that profits are taxed where they are made with “no impact” on the Italian government’s tax revenue. Because of tax credits for previous years’ losses, Fiat will not have to pay domestic Italian taxes for years to come. Still, to reduce tax burden, manufacturers can adjust the amounts of total profit attributed to the production, export or sale of each vehicle in different countries.

 

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Fiat Completes Acquisition of Chrysler, Marchionne Open to Other Partners http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/fiat-completes-acquisition-of-chrysler-marchionne-open-to-other-partners/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/fiat-completes-acquisition-of-chrysler-marchionne-open-to-other-partners/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=704618 chryfiat

Fiat announced that it has completed the acquisition of all remaining shares in Chrysler Group that it did not own. The United Auto Workers’ retiree healthcare trust, known as a voluntary employee beneficiary association or VEBA, received $3.65 billion in cash for its 41.46% stake in the Auburn Hills based automaker, $1.9 billion of which came from Chrysler and $1.75 billion from Fiat. The total deal is worth $4.35 billion, with Chrysler committed to pay the trust the remaining $700 million in four annual equal payments, the first of which was made when the deal was consummated.

The closing of the deal took place after a year and a half of negotiations, lawsuits and the threat of an initial public offering of Chrysler stock, but Sergio Marchionne has finally realized his ambition to combine Fiat and Chrysler. That gives Fiat access to Chrysler’s profits, needed to shore up the Italian automaker which is overexposed to the weak European market. Fiat projects spending as much as 9 billion euros ($12 billion) on investments in its Italian factories revamping its aging product lineup.

Fiat chairman John Elkann told reporters at the Detroit auto show last week that Marchionne, 61, will remain CEO through at least 2016 to manage what will now be the world’s 7th largest car company. The two companies sold about 4.4 million vehicles combined last year.

Fiat’s board of directors will meet at the end of January work out the details of the merger, including how the joint corporation will be organized, where the headquarters will be, and on which stock exchange the company will list its main stock listing, Elkann said. He also said that the merged company’s name will include both Fiat and Chrysler. At the Detroit show last week Marchionne said that the U.S. has a “large claim” as the location of the future headquarters, and that he prefers the New York Stock Exchange as the primary listing for the group. Marchionne also said that once the merger is complete, he would be open to additional partnerships with other automakers, such as PSA Peugeot Citroen and Suzuki though there is less urgency now that the merged company has “the credentials to be at the table” with top global automakers.

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Jeep Aiming For 1 Million Units Sold in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/jeep-aiming-for-1-million-units-sold-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/jeep-aiming-for-1-million-units-sold-in-2014/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 17:05:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=701209 2014-Jeep-Cherokee-front-closeup-1024x640

Chrysler Group LLC CEO Sergio Marchionne threw down the gauntlet for Jeep during an interview on Detroit’s WJR-AM at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, proclaiming that the Rubicon-rated brand will move 1 million units onto the trails and highways by the end of this year.

Global sales of the iconic off-road brand rose 4 percent in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year, topping out at a record 731,565 units moved. Though Marchionne is confident Jeep will make his stated sales goal, brand president Mike Manley is taking a more conservative stand, stating that the figure might come by 2015 rather than 2014.

However, Manley believes the new Cherokee could bring the remaining 300,000 or so units to the table by the end of the year should the SUV do well at home and abroad. Sales of the Cherokee in the United States, in spite of its face, are 15 percent to 20 percent ahead of Chrysler’s expectations after only two months in the market; total U.S. sales account for 67 percent of Jeep’s overall global sales.

As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Fiat has plans to build a subcompact Jeep in Italy for sale in Europe in 2014, with arrival in the U.S. due sometime in 2015. The parent automaker also plans to expand production in America, as well as in China and Brazil.

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In $4.35 Billion Deal, Fiat Will Acquire Rest of Chrysler from UAW Retiree Health Care Trust http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/in-4-35-billion-deal-fiat-will-acquire-rest-of-chrysler-from-uaw-retiree-health-care-trust/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/in-4-35-billion-deal-fiat-will-acquire-rest-of-chrysler-from-uaw-retiree-health-care-trust/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 11:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691066 marchionne

Fiat SpA said on Wednesday that it has signed an agreement to buy the remaining 41.5% stake in Chrysler that it does not own from the United Auto Worker’s retiree health-care trust, known as VEBA, for $3.65 billion in cash up front and another $700 million after the deal is completed. The agreement will allow Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne to realize his dream of creating a global automotive group out of the two companies. The joint automaker would be the 7th largest in the world.

Fiat and the trust have been negotiating over the stock’s value for more than a year. Part of that sparring included the VEBA exercising its option to force an initial public offering of Chrysler stock to determine a true market value. An IPO would have made it more difficult for Marchionne to consolidate the two firms but now it’s a moot point, as is the lawsuit filed by Fiat to determine a share price.

According to the terms of the deal, Fiat will put up $1.75 billion and Chrysler $1.9 billion, both in cash, to buy out the trust, with the remaining $700 million to be paid out by Chrysler in equal annual payments over four years. The contracts will be signed and the deal closed on or before January 20, 2014. Because some of the cash is coming from Chrysler, Fiat will not have to make any capital increase through a rights issue.

Marchionne needs Chrysler’s cash and current profitability to prop up Fiat, suffering because their core market, Europe, is still in the doldrums, but he can’t spend Chrysler’s cash on Fiat’s operations without a formal merger. Chrysler booked $464 million in profits in the third quarter of 2013 on strong sales of the Ram pickup and Jeep Grand Cherokee in North America. That was the Auburn Hills based automaker’s ninth straight quarterly profit. Fiat’s share of Chrysler’s profits were $260 million and without them Fiat would have lost $340 million for the quarter.

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Piston Slap: FIAT 500…Good or Garbage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-fiat-500-good-or-garbage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-fiat-500-good-or-garbage/#comments Thu, 26 Dec 2013 12:31:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686714

TTAC commentator AMC_CJ writes:

Sajeev,

My retired mother has come to the conclusion that she needs a 2nd car. Currently she has a 06′ Trailblazer that she keeps in mint condition, and despite having issues with the headlights going out automatically, and a lengthy dealing with GM, it’s been a good vehicle (and to GM’s credit, we think they finally found and fixed the problem with little expense to her). She loves her Trailblazer and it’s perfect for running up to our homestead in WV. But it’s the only car she has, and when it was in the shop recently it left her with a sub-par loaner she couldn’t drive very far. When I lived at home, I lent my parents a vehicle out of my own fleet when they needed.

My father made it several months after I moved away before he bought a 2nd car (which was my old PT Cruiser). My mother has held out for 4 years, but now she has come into a little bit of money and has come to the realization that;

1. When her Trailblazer is down, she’s stuck.
2. She likes her Trailblazer a lot, and wants it to last a long time as midsize true SUV’s are nearly dead. She’d like to save it for trips back and forth to WV and split the miles with another vehicle for running around town. I commit to the same strategy with my 06′ Liberty CRD and have proven it’s a great way to make a vehicle last longer. This was always common sense to me, but most people seemed pretty dumbfounded on why I owned so many cars. Other family members are starting to see the light too.

She doesn’t need anything fancy, or really practical. Just something to run to the store, go see her friends across town in, and the typical putting around retirees do. She doesn’t want another GM product after being left on mountain roads at night with no headlights; more times I care to mention. In fact, she doesn’t really like any new cars; but the Fiat 500 has caught her eye. So, being I’m a mechanic by profession and have a degree in this stuff I get asked all the time what I think. Well, I work on heavy trucks and have never seen a Fiat 500 mechanically, nor do I know anybody that has ever worked on one, owned one, etc. So I’m reaching out to the community here.

Maybe it’s that they’re too new. I’ve always thought of picking up one, probably used, when our 12′ Mustang is paid off and figured by then a few of them should of made it through their life cycle. But at this point, I haven’t heard of anything bad. We looked them up online and she’ll probably go with a base model, even a manual transmission. Maybe the turbo model if the base is just too slow (which is a possibility for her). I think she’s too used to her big SUV to feel comfortable in a small car again, but we’ll see how a test drive goes. But before we get that far, I’d like to know, how are these cars holding up?

What’s the word out there? Are they safe? If nothing else, I figure a comment section from the B&B would shine some light on the subject. This will probably be the last car she ever purchases, so it needs to last with her Trailblazer. I’d see her putting around 5,000miles a year on it, and it needs to probably last a good 15-20 years. Her main residence never really sees snow, so salt/rusting isn’t a concern.

Sajeev answers:

As expected with a foreign brand re-entering the US car biz, the first year of the FIAT 500 was plagued (hat tip to TrueDelta) with more problems than newer models.  I suspect it has less to do with the car, more about Chrysler dealerships ramping up their training, tools, parts, etc. for an eye-talian job they’ve never seen before…much less worked on.

There’s little doubt that today’s FIAT isn’t what left us back in 1983.  And the delta between a bad car back then and a bad one now is different: the variance in quality today could easily be statistically insignificant. But would I want a FIAT for 15-20 years?  Nope.

I have doubts as to the future long term cost/availability of aftermarket support, availability of qualified repair shops, or the longevity of FIAT USA.  Buy a more mainstream brand, it’s just a safer bet. I’d change my tune if she was keeping it for the duration of the warranty period, for sure.

Stick with big name American and Japanese brands for long-term ownership without the headaches.  Well, with less headaches…

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

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Dispatches do Brasil: Grazie Mille, Fiat’s Old Uno is Dead, Long Live the Uno! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/dispatches-do-brasil-grazie-mille-fiats-old-uno-is-dead-long-live-the-uno/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/dispatches-do-brasil-grazie-mille-fiats-old-uno-is-dead-long-live-the-uno/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 16:23:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=685498 latUnoGrazieMille

Another victim of government meddling in Brazil’s auto market is dead. Fiat’s venerable old Uno, redubbed the Mille a while ago, will not receive airbags and ABS, as per a newly mandated law, and thus will go into history’s dustbin alongside VW’s Kombi. As a farewell, Fiat has unleashed into the Brazilian market its own last edition, the Grazie Mille (“Thanks a Thousand”  a clever pun on the car’s official name, Mille, though the market still calls it Uno). It can be had for slightly over $13,000, and it’s the most well equipped Uno Mille of recent times. A nod back to when this car had the panache to dispute middle class families’ hearts.

1stUno1

Launched in 1983, (in Cape Canaveral to underscore its modernity), the Uno had been penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro for Fiat’s luxury arm Lancia. Seeing great potential in the car however, Fiat took it for itself and turned into its first world car. Italy ended up producing over 6,000,000 little Unos. Production there stopped in 1995, as did sales in Western Europe, but production continued in places, like Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Morocco, South Africa, India and Pakistan. In Brazil, production started in 1984. In many ways, the Uno introduced Brazilians to modern motoring and was the gateway for Fiat to become a key player in Brazil, taking its consumers seriously at a time when most OEMs did not.

1stUno2

At first, many Brazilians did not understand the car. It was ridiculed and nicknamed “orthopedic boot” due to its unusual design. However, it offered Brazilians modern suspension systems, passive and active safety systems like crumple zones(a rarity at the time), a comfortable ride, excellent seating and visibility and modern ergonomics even by present standards. Its greatest attraction was the inordinate amount of space due to its boxy shape and taller height (a trick many later emulated). The first engines were 1.0 and 1.3L, 52 and 59 hp, and there were gasoline and ethanol versions. For the time, performance was pretty good. Top speeds were 140km/h and 150km/h combined with very low consumption.

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In 1985, the Uno’s sedan version, called Premio in Brazil (and Duna in other markets) made its first appearance. It came with a larger 1.5L engine with 71hp. In 1986, the station wagon, called Elba, made its debut. With a pleasant design, it offered incredible trunk space, about 600 liters.

uno1.5R 2

In 1987, the sports version. Called the Uno R, it offered sporting decorations. No matter the color of the rest of the car, the back hatch was always matte black. The seats belts and other details came in a bright red. I remember a friend getting a yellow one. Boy, were we envious! Though it used the same 1.5L engine as the tamer versions, many alterations were made such as double carburetion and a higher compression ratio helped the car produce 86hp, good enough for a 0-100km/h run of 11 seconds. As a comparison, it was faster in that measurement than the Brazilian Ford Escort XR3, probably the most desired car of the time, but that cost almost double the Uno. Another first then, real performance for the “masses”.

elba1

In 1987, another “sort of” first. The Brazilian Premio and Elba (the wagon shown above) were being exported to Europe (as was the Uno a bit later). In those markets, 4 doors were obbligatorio. As a result, Fiat re-introduced 4 door cars into the Brazilian market. The story goes that Brazilians confused 4 door cars with taxis. As a result, for private use, people rejected 4 doors. This insanity was compounded by makers only offering cars with 2 doors, be them hatches or family sedans and station wagon. When Fiat re-introduced these cars with 4 doors, and offered the Uno hatch with four doors, sales grew and grew, eventually forcing everyone else to catch up.

workFiorino1

In 1988, the family was complete. The Uno Fiorino van and pickup were introduced. The pickup was a hit in urban areas. It soon became a craze and young people specially loved to be seen in one. Other makers were compelled to follow. However, the pickup never really lost its work roots. It soon became a very flexible line with very basic versions for work, and ever more luxurious and decorated versions for play.

uno turbo

In 1990, the cars got bigger engines. The 1.6L was introduced. That same year, another first. Following a government mandate to reduce fuel consumption and bring car prices down in yet another effort to mass-market the automobile, the government created special tax treatment to the 800cc to 1L engine class. Taxes on these models were of just (!) 20 percent, half of what was charged on larger engines. In 60 days, Fiat had its version ready. At first, the 1.0 Uno, now called Uno Mille in allusion to the motor, only had 48hp and took over 20 seconds to get to 100km/h (and eventually its top speed of 135km/h). However, it was a very refined engine in its functioning and gained RPMs very quickly and satisfyingly and, thus, didn’t eliminate all driving pleasure. The competition could only muster any opposition almost a year and a half later when the Chevette Junior and VW Gol arrived. Using engines that were even more inadequate and being the cars heavier than the Uno, it would take a whole new generation of cars to really give the Uno Mille some opposition.

In 1992, due to new emissions regulations, Fiat was forced to give the Uno and its siblings fuel injection and digital ignitions. This of course resulted in more power, better economy and easier starts. For the Mille however, fuel injection was deemed too expensive. So, Fiat came up with a genial solution, it added only the digital ignition and a double carburetion to that 1.0 engine. The result? The fastest 1.0 L car in the whole world at the time. And I can attest to that, I had one.

This Uno Mille sported many firsts for 1.0L cars. It was the first to offer 4 doors, a “smart” air conditioner that turned off under hard acceleration in order to not penalize performance too much, power steering, metallic colors even for the basest cars. It offered dignity to buyers of smaller cars. Yes, you did sacrifice some performance, but on the other hand you had a car with decent finishing, high content at a fraction of the price of higher cars.

In real terms, the 90s was a decade in which Brazilian cars did become cheaper, even while they were becoming more comfortable. Touches like Fiat’s development of an AC that would actually work rather well with the smaller engines were the icing on the cake. Other makers, at other times, had added extra equipment to their smaller cars. It never worked as this equipment was not originally developed for these cars, but rather adapted. Fiat was the first to understand this and offer the Brazilian consumer a well integrated and rounded off small car that could compete in content and performance with cars the next level up. The strategy ended up working so well, that there were years in the 90s were 1.0L cars made up 75 percent of the market. Only different taxation schemes by the government would change the panorama.

uno turbo2

In 1994, another first. The first Brazilian factory turbo. Equipped with a 1.4L engine and a Garrett T2 turbo, that little pocket rocket produced 118 ponies. It could more than hang with naturally aspirated 2.0 engines of the times. Top speed was close to 200km/h and the 0-100 run was done in a breath over 9 seconds. Not only that, the brakes were better as was the suspension re-worked. Internally it offered a degree of finishing that only much more expensive cars had. In a publicity stunt (AFAIK, for the first time in Brazil), Fiat ministered a driving course to the first takers.

In 1996, the Fiat Palio arrived. A more modern project, it was also a world car, though a world car destined only for the Third World. In Western Europe, the Punto had taken up the place preciously occupied by the Uno. The Palio was supposed to be the death knell for the Uno but it never quite did it. Little by little the different body styles of the Uno died off. The Fiorino pickup was substituted by the Strada, the Elba SW ceded its place to the Palio Weekend, the Premio died off to give rise to the Siena. The Uno hatch and the Uno Fiorino van though lived on and on.

A new engine family for the Uno only helped extend its lifespan, despite Fiat’s plans for the Palio to take over. The Uno got only the 1.0L version and was rechristened “Mille” by Fiat (the market ignored the new name). The Fiorino would use larger versions of the new engine family, dubbed “FIRE”. Lighter than the Palio, the older Uno beat the young upstart in economy and performance. So the market continued buying the old horse, and it soon developed a reputation as the car that would not die.

uno lada

In 2004, Fiat gave the UNO a Lada-like restyle. It also simplified the interiors even more. The motor for the back wiper, for example, now had no plastic cover and sat there exposed to dust and baggage. However, as the Uno shared some bits and pieces with the Palio, some interior items improved. The instruments become more complete and the whole steering column was shared with the Palio.  Many started likening the Uno to the old Fusca (VW Beetle). It was past its prime, but the market still bought it. It was the most economic car in Brazil. Parts were cheap, plentiful, anybody knew how to wrench it.

In the last 10 years of its, Fiat caved in somewhat to the market and stopped trying to kill it. It was soon restyled, the interiors improved somewhat and it received the same alterations in engines that the 1.0L Palio received. Sometimes it even outsold its younger brother. It lived long enough to see its new incarnation.

In 2010, to great critical acclaim, Fiat introduced the Novo Uno. With the round square design theme, it would handily outsell the Palio, until the new Palio was introduced. Sharing almost nothing with the older Uno and Palio (as it’s the result of a new platform), the new Uno nevertheless took on the Uno name. This name is the name of the car that just won’t die, the Uno family was the basis for the Palio family, which was to take on all competitors and raise Fiat up to first place in Brazil, a position it has now occupied for 12 straight years.

The old Uno has sold around 3.5 million units in Brazil. Add to that the 1.3 million Uno-derived sedans, station wagons, pickups and vans. I helped them along. I had 3. I can attest to their robustness, modernity and adequacy to the conditions in our market. I lost interest in about the year 2000 as by then most competitors had caught up, if not surpassed it, in terms of dynamics, comfort and economy though few could touch it on price.

The Fiat Uno, and cars inspired, created and developed to compete with it, cars that took the Uno’s innovations and ran with them, are the cars that my generation grew up on. Much more than the Beetle, which sold in much more modest numbers, this is the car that put Brazil on wheels.

Hat tip: most of the numbers here were taken from Brazilian enthusiast site, bestcars.com.br, that has an exhaustive history of this car and many others. The opinions though are my own.

1stUno1 1stUno2 elba1 elba2 latUnoGrazieMille playFiorino1 playfiorino2 premio1 premio2 uno lada uno turbo uno turbo2 uno1.5R 2 uno1.5R UnoFiorino2 unoFioriono1 workFiorino1 workFiorino2 ]]>
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Fiat Resumes Negotiations to Buy Rest of Chrysler from UAW VEBA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/fiat-resumes-negotiations-to-buy-rest-of-chrysler-from-uaw-veba/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/fiat-resumes-negotiations-to-buy-rest-of-chrysler-from-uaw-veba/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 12:30:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686618

Bloomberg is reporting that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has resumed talks with the UAW’s retiree health care trust (aka VEBA) to buy the 41.5% of Chrysler that the Italian automaker doesn’t yet own. Fiat executives met last week with the trust’s representatives. The proposed initial public offering of Chrysler stock has been delayed for tax reasons until next year, creating a window of opportunity for a deal. Differing valuations on the stock prompted VEBA’s demand for the IPO, which would establish a market price for the stock, most likely more than Marchionne and the Agnelli family that controls Fiat want to pay.

Fiat recently upped its offer, the first it has made since August. That offer was rejected but apparently the parties are close enough that negotiations have resumed. According to Bloomberg’s sources, advisers to the IPO estimated a market valuation of approximately $10 billion for Chrysler. Based on those estimates, Fiat is said to be offering about $4.2 billion, while the trust wants at least $5 billion. While $800 million is still a lot of money, the two parties are closer than ever before. Fiat does have the right to buy the remaining stake for about $6 billion so it’s not as though a corporate raider is going to swoop in and snatch the rest of Chrysler from Marchionne’s grasp, but the Fiat CEO doesn’t want to overpay.

Marchionne wants to merge Fiat and Chrysler to be able to compete with larger global rivals, and also so that Fiat can access Chrysler’s profits to help them weather the weakness of Fiat’s core market in Europe and develop replacements for their aging product line there. The more Fiat pays for the remaining share of Chrysler the less cash the merged company will have for product development on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

On the other side of the negotiating table, the health care trust is holding out for a maximum payout, particularly since a recent analysis says that their anticipated costs to provide health care to Chrysler UAW retirees will still exceed VEBA’s current assets including the 41.5% stake in Chrysler by more than $3 billion.

Representatives for Fiat and Chrysler officially declined to comment.

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Turbos, Diesels Rule Top 10 Engine List in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678850 Audi 3.0 TFSI Engine

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

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

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

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

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

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Fiat Punto to Be Axed, $13.2 billion Spent On 20 New Models Over Next 3 Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/fiat-punto-to-be-axed-13-2-billion-spent-on-20-new-models-over-next-3-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/fiat-punto-to-be-axed-13-2-billion-spent-on-20-new-models-over-next-3-years/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 13:30:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=676138 Fiat Punto, not long for this world.

Fiat Punto, not long for this world.

Sources tell Bloomberg News that Fiat Spa will spend as much as 9 billion euros ($12 billion) over the next three years developing new models for for the European market. The Italian automaker hopes the strategy will end losses on the continent and restore drastically underutilized Italian factories to profitability. Many of the new models will be based on either the Fiat 500 subcompact or the small, low cost Panda.  A five door version of the 500 will replace the Punto. The Punto, last restyled in 2005, has long been a fixture in Fiat showrooms and as recently as 2007 it accounted for almost a third of the Fiat brand’s sales in Europe.

Though Fiat wants to use its Italian factories better, the Punto’s replacement will be built in Poland to save on costs. Sergio Marchionne believes that “made in Italy” works with upscale brands like Maserati and Alfa Romeo. The upcoming Maserati Levante SUV will be made in Fiat’s Mirafiori factory.

Not able to access the profits that Chrysler is banking because it’s not wholly owned by Fiat yet, Marchionne must find a way to staunch the parent brand’s bleeding red ink in Europe. Fiat has previously announced that it hopes to develop about 20 new models for Europe by 2016, including eight Alfa Romeos. Some of those cars are a 500 based SUV along with Italian made Jeeps to be introduced alongside the open version of Alfa’s 4C sports car.

Fiat has lost market share in Europe for the past four years, with deliveries dropping 47% over that period and market share going form 9.3% to 6.2%. The Italian automaker has had almost 2 billion euros in operating losses since 2011, including over 300 million euros in loses for the first three quarters of 2013.

Many of Fiat’s 30,700 production workers in Italy have been furloughed this year, most of them for more than five months.

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Ram to ProMaster the City in Late 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/ram-to-promaster-the-city-in-late-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/ram-to-promaster-the-city-in-late-2014/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 15:57:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=669458 Fiat Doblo

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

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

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

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Marchionne To Reveal Yet Another Relaunch Plan for Alfa Romeo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/marchionne-to-reveal-yet-another-relaunch-plan-for-alfa-romeo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/marchionne-to-reveal-yet-another-relaunch-plan-for-alfa-romeo/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=668922 800px-'_2012_Geneva_Motor_Show_-_Disco_Volante

For the fourth time since 2004 Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is reported to have devised a new plan to revive the Alfa Romeo brand, this one focused on premium vehicles made in Italy for export to the world. Alfa hasn’t made a profit in the nine years since Marchionne took the reigns at Fiat.

Marchionne’s latest plan for Alfa will be based on a new rear wheel drive architecture (with all wheel drive variants) that will be developed by a dedicated group of engineers at Maserati in Modena, headed by Philippe Krieff. Krieff reports directly to Harald Wester, Fiat-Chrysler chief technical officer and CEO of Alfa and Maserati. The new platform is seen as needed to compete with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. With sales of 101,000 units last year Alfa Romeo doesn’t really have the kind of volume to support dedicated platforms so the architecture will like be used by Chrysler and Dodge as well. Sources say it could be ultimately used for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge’s Charger and Challenger.

Right now Alfa is hampered by two factors: the brand’s primary market is Europe, where auto sales continue to be soft; and a lack of product. Currently the only models Alfa dealers offer are the MiTo subcompact, Giulietta compact and the 4C sports coupe.

The new architecture will help flesh out the Alfa lineup and be the basis of at least four new models: the Giulia mid-sized sedan and a wagon variant, a large flagship sedan and a mid-sized SUV. The first is set to launch by early 2016 and all will be sold in the United States, where Marchionne has been trying revive the Alfa Romeo brand.

Marchionne has lowered his expectations for Alfa worldwide sales from 500,000 units by 2014, to 400,000 units and last October he said the goal would be “more than 300,000 units.”

Some analysts are skeptical that Marchionne can find the cash to simultaneously regrow Alfa Romeo and buy the 41.%% of Chrysler that it needs to buy to take full control of the Auburn Hills automaker so Fiat can have access to the profits Chrysler is currently generating. Marchionne is in a bit of a Catch-22. He needs Chrysler’s cash to turn around Alfa but Fiat’s current capital structure doesn’t have enough cash to buy the rest of Chrysler to get access to that cash.

One analyst, though, Richard Hilgert, at Morningstar in Chicago, thinks that before trying to buy the rest of Chrysler Marchionne will set up a new capital structure for the Fiat group. Hilgert believes that this would let Marchionne fund the relaunch of Alfa; support new product development for Fiat in Europe; and fund the Chrysler purchase. “I think the company could negotiate a financing package prior to closing on a Chrysler deal with the VEBA [the trade union pension trust that is Chrysler's minority owner],” Hilgert said.

Maserati sales are booming and Marchionne hopes to reproduce that success with the eventual goal of exporting lots of Alfa Romeos from the group’s currently underutilized Italian plants.

“We will focus on Alfa Romeo and Maserati to access the higher end of what we consider to be a permanently polarized market,” Marchionne said in October, reiterating that Fiat would not close any Italian plants. The combined capacity of the Cassino, Melfi, Mirafiori and Pomigliano plants is more than 1 million units. Last year their combined output dropped by 18 percent to 394,620 units, ~40% of capacity, about half the utilization needed to break even.

Marchionne’s precise plan is a secret until its expected announcement next spring but the Automotive News, based on industry and supplier sources, makes the the following predictions.

Giulia: Originally planned to share the FWD bones of the upcoming redesigned Chrysler 200 and due next year, the Giulia will be switched to the new RWD/AWD architecture and launch at the earliest in late 2015. The new Giulia may be built at the Cassino plant in central Italy.

Large sedan: It was going to be derived from the Maserati Ghibli and launched by 2014 but the Maserati platform was judged to be too expensive to use so it will share the new RWD/AWD platfrom and debut at that same time as the Giulia.

Mid-sized coupe: A BMW 4 Series competitor based on the new architecture.

Large coupe: This would go up against the BMW 6 Series and may share a platform with the next Maserati GranTurismo coupe scheduled for 2016.

Roadster: Due in 2015, Mazda will build a two seat roadster for Alfa based on the next generation MX-5/Miata. It will use an uprated version of Fiat’s 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo direct injected gasoline engine.

4C coupe: European deliveries started in October. Asia will follow in Q1 of 2014 and North America in the second quarter of the year.

4C Spider: Alfa plans a version of the 4C with a removable carbon fiber roof, expected to be revealed in Geneva next March.

Compact crossover: Everyone today has to have a compact crossover. Alfa’s will be derived from the replacement for the Jeep Compass and Patriot.

Mid-sized SUV: Alfa had been considering building an Alfa variant of the new Jeep Cherokee at Jeep’s Toledo, Ohio plant but the latest reports say that it might be switched to the new RWD/AWD architecture and built in Cassino.

Large SUV: This would be based on the Maserati Levante premium large SUV that is due in early 2015 and will be built at Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in Turin.

MiTo: Alfa canceled plans for a five-door variant of the three-door MiTo. The MiTo is only sold in Europe and with the weak market there, a business case couldn’t be made for the five-door.

Giulietta: Due for a complete redesign in 2016, Alfa’s best-selling model was just face-lifted and given new electronic features.

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Fiat Says No Chrysler IPO Before 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/fiat-says-no-chrysler-ipo-before-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/fiat-says-no-chrysler-ipo-before-2014/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 11:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=663890 fiat-and-chrysler-logos_100193029_m

Though Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne had previously said that an initial public offering of Chrysler stock could take place by the end of 2013, the Italian automaker announced that stock sale will not take place before the new year. ”The Board of Directors of Chrysler Group … has determined that it will not be practicable for Chrysler Group to launch and complete an initial public offering prior to the end of 2013,” Fiat said in a statement.

 

The sale could help resolve the dispute between Fiat and the UAW’s health benefits trust, which owns 41.% of Chrysler, over the valuation of that stake, but a delay in the IPO could also delay Fiat’s full acquisition of the Auburn Hills based automaker. Marchionne would like to merge Fiat and Chrysler to create the world’s 7th largest auto firm and give Fiat access to Chrysler’s profits. Chrysler had initially filed paperwork for an IPO in late September.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Chrysler would raise between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars with the IPO. That would give the company a market valuation of 9 to 12 billion dollars. Fiat declined to comment on the report.

Marchionne wants to merge the Fiat and Chrysler to create the world’s seventh-largest carmaker. Fiat has been hurt by the weak European market. The company’s plan to reduce losses in Europe depends on sharing technology, cash and dealer networks with Chrysler. The merger would also give Marchionne access to Chrysler’s profits and allow him to use that cash to shore up Fiat and expand its product offerings. The companies, while managed by the same people, must currently keep their finances separate.

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Fiat Passes on Milano Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/fiat-passes-on-milano-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/fiat-passes-on-milano-auto-show/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:45:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=654162 Fiat Strada Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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