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. Tue, 25 Nov 2014 01:28:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 Dispatches do Brasil: How I Killed the Sports Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-killed-sports-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-killed-sports-car/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:13:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949249 Reading here on TTAC that a BMW executive declared the sports car dead was a sad day for me. Yes, I am one of those who bemoan the passing of beautiful, personal cars like those, whether or not sprinkled with the fairy dust of power. I’m not talking Ferrari here, I’m talking simpler things, like an Opel […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dispatches Do Brasil: Young Americans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dispatches-do-brasil-young-americans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dispatches-do-brasil-young-americans/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:41:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875449 FCA has been trying to broaden the appeal of its Fiat line in the US. Success may be a ways off, into the future, or at least won’t materialize until the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X are launch. But that won’t stop the Italians from trying. In a bid to show off its minivan as a […]

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FCA has been trying to broaden the appeal of its Fiat line in the US. Success may be a ways off, into the future, or at least won’t materialize until the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X are launch. But that won’t stop the Italians from trying. In a bid to show off its minivan as a viable alternative for active young folks, Fiat will introduce its 500L Vans edition at the upcoming US Open – of surfing (yes, surfing, not the famous tennis tournament).

Co-sponsored by Vans (a shoe company), this concept relies heavily on visual cues to draw the attention of the cool dudes and gals that gather at such venues.

This 500L distinguishes itself by the four DRLs grafted on to the front bumper that look like the heavy duty lights seen on “adventure” vehicles, a blue and white two-tone paint job, a plaid roof, tennis sole looking pedals, special upholstery for the seats (that will remind some of a palm tree, others of a different plant), blacked out wheels, roof rack for surf boards and other items and some decals on the dashboard featuring myriad brands.

I love the paintjob and seat covers. I think the plaid roof is silly, but apparently plaid is “in” right now. I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination, but perhaps I’m out of touch.

Motivation is provided by Fiat’s 1.4 turbo good for 160 horses. It also features a 6-speed manual. And that, to me, is the most puzzling feature? How are American kids going to drive a stick?

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Which Will Be Our First Renault? Mitsubishi Or Ram? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/which-will-be-our-first-renault-mitsubishi-or-ram/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/which-will-be-our-first-renault-mitsubishi-or-ram/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:30:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872338 First it was Mitsubishi that inked a deal with Renault Samsung to bring their wares over here as Mitsubishi branded cars. Now Fiat is getting into the action, by having Renault produce an unspecified commercial vehicle. Renault and Fiat announced a vaguely worded deal to have Renault build a commercial vehicle for Fiat starting in […]

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First it was Mitsubishi that inked a deal with Renault Samsung to bring their wares over here as Mitsubishi branded cars. Now Fiat is getting into the action, by having Renault produce an unspecified commercial vehicle.

Renault and Fiat announced a vaguely worded deal to have Renault build a commercial vehicle for Fiat starting in 2016. There is no indication of what it could be, but now that the Ram ProMaster lineup is firmly Fiat-based, it’s not out of the question. Between that and the Samsung SM5, we’ll have an even better idea of all of the wonderful oddities currently off limits to our unsophisticated automotive palates…

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Volkswagen Interested In Buying Fiat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-interested-in-buying-fiat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-interested-in-buying-fiat/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:14:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867258 German business publication Manager Magazin is reporting that Volkswagen could be interested in acquiring Fiat. The Agnelli family, which controls the industrial conglomerate, is apparently looking to exit the volume car manufacturing business. According to the article, the Agnelli family would retain Ferrari, while Volkswagen would benefit from Chrysler and its associated brands by giving it a foothold […]

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German business publication Manager Magazin is reporting that Volkswagen could be interested in acquiring Fiat. The Agnelli family, which controls the industrial conglomerate, is apparently looking to exit the volume car manufacturing business.

According to the article, the Agnelli family would retain Ferrari, while Volkswagen would benefit from Chrysler and its associated brands by giving it a foothold in America, where it has traditionally struggled. VW CEO Ferdinand Peich has long coveted Alfa Romeo, though it’s unclear what would happen to FCA’s other brands.

Any deal would be faced with a number of obstacles, including financial issues and inevitable consolidation of the respective brand portfolios. But the Agnelli family’s desire to exit the volume car manufacturing business is a wise one, given the constantly shaky market conditions in Europe, their exposure to the hardest hit regions of that continent and the massive overcapacity crisis currently plaguing its assembly plants. By contrast, Ferrari is a license to print money, generating enormous profits from its merchandising arm alone. Sergio Marchionne has long said that economies of scale above 6 million units are required to survive in this next era of the automotive business – this may be the most expedient way for him to achieve that goal.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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FCA To Sell Re-Badged Mitsubshi Mirages In Colt Redux http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fca-to-sell-re-badged-mitsubshi-mirages-in-colt-redux/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fca-to-sell-re-badged-mitsubshi-mirages-in-colt-redux/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 05:39:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854473 Chrysler will re-badge the Mitsubishi Attrage (the sedan version of the much-loved Mitsubishi Mirage) for sale in Asian markets. Sounds crazy, right? Not really. Chrysler has a history of selling small Mitsubishis under their own brand in North America, but the agreement with Mitsubishi will cover Asia, a region where Chrysler has never been particularly […]

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Chrysler will re-badge the Mitsubishi Attrage (the sedan version of the much-loved Mitsubishi Mirage) for sale in Asian markets. Sounds crazy, right? Not really.

Chrysler has a history of selling small Mitsubishis under their own brand in North America, but the agreement with Mitsubishi will cover Asia, a region where Chrysler has never been particularly strong. No specific markets or brand decisions were announced for the Thai-built sedan, but we’d like to humbly suggest a name for the new car: the Colt.

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2015 Ram ProMaster City Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/2015-ram-promaster-city-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/2015-ram-promaster-city-revealed/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 04:01:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848418 Pulling up to the intersection of Flower Shop Lane, Contractor Boulevard and Utility Road is the Fiat Doblò-based 2015 Ram ProMaster City, the second van to emerge from Ram’s relationship with Fiat Professional. The unibody van can be had in either Wagon or Tradesman Cargo base trim with SLT trim as an upgrade to both […]

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Pulling up to the intersection of Flower Shop Lane, Contractor Boulevard and Utility Road is the Fiat Doblò-based 2015 Ram ProMaster City, the second van to emerge from Ram’s relationship with Fiat Professional.

The unibody van can be had in either Wagon or Tradesman Cargo base trim with SLT trim as an upgrade to both bases, and boasts a total of eight configurations involving security panels and rear and side windows. Cargo volume comes to 131.7 cubic feet with a width of 60.4 inches above the wheel wells, 48.4 inches in between. Height is 51.8 inches, with a step-in height of 21.5 inches, and payload capacity is 1,883 pounds.

Up front, the Tigershark 2.4-liter I4 with MultiAir2 technology puts 178 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via its nine-speed automatic transmission. The transmission has a final-drive ratio of 3.73:1, good for improved fuel economy over the Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200 and Chevrolet City Express, as well as a nil-to-30 mph time of 3.7 seconds. ESC — one of 34 safety features on-board, including brake/park interlock and rearview camera — keeps it all together while making deliveries, and the van’s Uconnect helps maintain contact between provider and customer during service calls.

The ProMaster City variants will drive off the container ships to all 2,300 Ram dealerships later this year from the TOFAS plant in Bursa, Turkey, with upfitting to be handled at the Chrysler Group Transformation Center in Baltimore, Md., and Mopar contributing to the customization. No price has been given thus far.

2015 Ram ProMaster City 01 2015 Ram ProMaster City 02 2015 Ram ProMaster City 03 2015 Ram ProMaster City 04 2015 Ram ProMaster City 05 2015 Ram ProMaster City 06 2015 Ram ProMaster City 07 2015 Ram ProMaster City 08 2015 Ram ProMaster City 09 2015 Ram ProMaster City 10 2015 ProMaster City wide-ratio 9-speed automatic transmission 2015 Ram ProMaster City Chassis 2015 Ram ProMaster City 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with 9-speed 2015 Ram ProMaster City bi-link rear suspension VIper A Ram Tool Bag and Caddy is among the Mopar items available to c 2015 ProMaster City 2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT interior 2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT interior 2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT Wagon interior 2015 Ram ProMaster City badge

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

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

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

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

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

And then the engine quit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This, as the say, changed everything.

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

Cheap indeed.

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

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Alfa 4C Arrives In 86 North American Showrooms, Brings 342 Pounds Of Luggage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/alfa-4c-arrives-in-86-north-american-showrooms-brings-342-pounds-of-luggage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/alfa-4c-arrives-in-86-north-american-showrooms-brings-342-pounds-of-luggage/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 10:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=841969 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has just released their initial list of dealerships who will have the right to sell the Alfa Romeo 4C to North American customers, while the sports car will bring 342 pounds of luggage for the trip from Modena to the selected showrooms. Autoblog reports all but four dealerships will be in the […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has just released their initial list of dealerships who will have the right to sell the Alfa Romeo 4C to North American customers, while the sports car will bring 342 pounds of luggage for the trip from Modena to the selected showrooms.

Autoblog reports all but four dealerships will be in the United States — the remaining four are in Canada — and the majority of those will be concentrated in three of the 33 states on the initial list: California, Florida and Texas. The chosen ones were drawn from a list of existing Fiat and Maserati dealerships, and though expected cities like Los Angeles, Orlando and Austin will be among the chosen, a few big names didn’t make the first cut, including New York, Seattle and Louisville, Ky.

Meanwhile, the chosen dealerships “will have a unique staff dedicated to the brand’s premium market clientele,” per the words of Chrysler Group vice president of network development Peter Grady. The dealerships are undergoing “an intensive curriculum” to ensure the success of the 4C and limited-edition 4C Launch Edition as FCA presses forward toward its goal of over 300 Alfa dealerships in North America.

As for the 4C itself, Jalopnik says the sports car packed on an additional 342 pounds to its 2,153-pound Euro-spec frame for the U.S. market, coming into port at 2,495 pounds. Aside from the usual federalization mandates, some of the weight comes from the standard air-con and radio equipped in the U.S.-spec model.

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The Dakota That Could Have Been http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/the-dakota-that-could-have-been/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/the-dakota-that-could-have-been/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 14:23:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836241 Sometime around 2012, a Ram Trucks source told TTAC about an investigation into a smaller pickup for the brand, one that could have even turned out to be a front-drive pickup. “We won’t do another Dakota,” said our source, “but maybe something else.”. By all accounts, that truck would have been based on one of […]

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Sometime around 2012, a Ram Trucks source told TTAC about an investigation into a smaller pickup for the brand, one that could have even turned out to be a front-drive pickup. “We won’t do another Dakota,” said our source, “but maybe something else.”. By all accounts, that truck would have been based on one of Fiat’s small, unibody front-drive pickups. But now, Fiat seems to want a Dakota of its own.

Automotive News reports that Fiat will get a new body-on-frame midsize truck starting in 2016, which will be a variant of the Mitsubishi L200. The Thai-built L200 is a smaller, body-on-frame pickup with rear or four-wheel drive and both gasoline and diesel engines, making it a good fit for Fiat’s commercial vehicle lineup. And it’s very likely that we’ll never seen it here.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters at the most recent 5-year plan that FCA had tried out a smaller truck at clinics, but was unable to wow the crowd, let alone make a business case for such a truck. The L200 isn’t homologated for North America either, and a smaller truck isn’t a great fit for FCA in terms of CAFE either. FCA is already lagging behind other OEMs in terms of CAFE footprint, and small trucks are one of the worst vehicles when it comes to meeting those standards.

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QOTD: Marchionne Says Government Made Him Sell Fiat 500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-marchionne-says-government-made-him-sell-fiat-500/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-marchionne-says-government-made-him-sell-fiat-500/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 16:38:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828290 An event held at Washington D.C’s Brookings Institute saw FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and former National Economic Council head Larry Summers discuss the auto bailout on its five-year anniversary. As always, Marchionne had some colorful commentary, with a one interesting nugget about Fiat. According to Christina Rogers of the Wall Street Journal, Marchionne claimed that […]

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An event held at Washington D.C’s Brookings Institute saw FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and former National Economic Council head Larry Summers discuss the auto bailout on its five-year anniversary. As always, Marchionne had some colorful commentary, with a one interesting nugget about Fiat.

According to Christina Rogers of the Wall Street Journal, Marchionne claimed that the Fiat 500 was only imported to the United States due to the government’s hand, with Marchionne stating

“It was a condition assigned to the [bailout] deal”

This has previously never been stated in any bailout related discussion – only the Dodge Dart and its 40 mpg capability has been highlighted as a specific requirement of the bailout, in terms of product.

If this is indeed correct, it would add some context to Fiat’s confusing position in the marketplace. For Fiat to thrive in America, it would make sense to add more product that is better aligned to American tastes. All we’ve gotten are the 500 and 500L, which are both unsuited to the vast majority of American tastes and driving conditions.

So far, Fiat’s American arrival has been an expensive endeavor that has not exactly fared well. The costs of homologating the cars, building the 500 in a new factory in the NAFTA zone, establishing a dealer network and marketing the car is certain to be a $1-billion dollar expenditure. Perhaps this is just a bit of bluster by Sergio to obfuscate the fact that Fiat isn’t burning up the sales charts in America. I am sure that Fiat dealers would like a more lucid answer.

 

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Dispatches Do Brasil: No Way, It’s The Palio Way! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/dispatches-do-brasil-no-way-its-the-palio-way/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/dispatches-do-brasil-no-way-its-the-palio-way/#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 11:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=818650 As I mentioned in my recent analysis of FCA’s plans for Brazil, Fiat is chugging along at almost full capacity and doesn’t really need new cars to compete here. However, that doesn’t mean they will quit fiddling with their product line. Behold the latest and greatest in South America: Fiat’s adventurous new Palio Fire Way! […]

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As I mentioned in my recent analysis of FCA’s plans for Brazil, Fiat is chugging along at almost full capacity and doesn’t really need new cars to compete here. However, that doesn’t mean they will quit fiddling with their product line. Behold the latest and greatest in South America: Fiat’s adventurous new Palio Fire Way!

According to Brazilian enthusiast site bestcars.com.br, the latest Fiat to sport the trappings of the very successful aventureiro idea is the the Palio Fire. Launched way back in 1996, the bonesof the car has remained untouched, while the front and back have been redesigned (Giorgetto Giugiaro penned this version) and the mechanicals have been completely overhauled. With a ride height 15 mm taller than the regular version, what else does the new Palio offer consumers for the price of 27,860 reais (about 4,000 more than the regular)?

They get some “fancy” decals, plastic cladding on the wheel openings, plastic protection on the bottom of bumpers, plastic side mirror covers and plastic hubcaps. Lots of plastic. Besides that they get a tachometer and (very slightly) better seat fabrics and blacked out headlights.

The Palio Fire Way comes with the same equipment as the regular version, like the now mandatory dual frontal airbags and ABS, and – wait for it – internal manual controls for the side mirrors and clock.  Air conditioning, power steering, windows and locks, alloy wheels, more airbags, really anything that’s worth having, is an option and costs high dollars to get.

The Palio Fire isn’t a complete crapcan. It actually gives you a soft, compliant ride, seating for five is tight but possible, the trunk will hold a week’s worth of groceries or the luggage of a small family on vacations. The 1.0 engine puts out 70-ish horses and sounds pretty good doing so and is responsive. Fuel economy is not bad.

Finally, Brazil is a very large country with miles of back roads, unpaved roads, broken roads. For those out in the country and who can’t pay for a pickup or need a car to take the family along, the extra height is quite useful. Even in Brazilian cities, some see benefits in the extra ride height as it helps in overcoming the numerous potholes, speed bumps, unbelievably deep gutters so prevalent in Brazilian cities.

This is the kind of car Brazilians can expect to see over the course of the next couple of years. Cars that been selling for more than a while and will continue to do so, aided by the cosmetic touches Fiat is so good at. Real new cars? You’ll have to wait until 2016.

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Dispatches Do Brasil: FCA’s Plans For Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/dispatches-do-brasil-fcas-plans-for-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/dispatches-do-brasil-fcas-plans-for-latin-america/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 16:40:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=818626 After all was said and done and the dust settled on FCA’s presentation of future plans to investors a couple of days ago, many of us were still left wondering – what does FCA really have in store for Brazil? We all know what the “F” in FCA stands for and there’s a reason why […]

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After all was said and done and the dust settled on FCA’s presentation of future plans to investors a couple of days ago, many of us were still left wondering – what does FCA really have in store for Brazil? We all know what the “F” in FCA stands for and there’s a reason why it comes before the “C”. Part of that is the success Fiat has enjoyed in Brazil – which was heavily emphasized in the Fiat brand presentation. Brazil is a good indicator for Fiat’s plans in the Latin American market, and the rest of the globe.

This year, Fiat is doing well, even though Brazil is in a down market this year (Fiat is down about 5 percent). 2013 saw Fiat sell 785,000 cars – impressive given that its domestic production capacity is 800,000 units. Fiat will add another 400,000 units of capacity over the next few years, betting heavily on Brazil as a major engine of growth.

So what did FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne say about Brazil? No new nothing for brasileiros until 2016, when the new factory will kick off production of the new “City” car directly aimed at Volkswagen’s up!. More than likely, it will sport a 900cc two-cylinder engine that can add forced induction, producing 70 to 130 hp while keeping consumption (and emissions) to a minimum.

Besides that, baby Jeeps and Jeeps labeled as Fiat products will also come out of that new factory (4 new models, initially).These new CUVs will sit directly in the meat of the fastest growing segment in the world. Aside from giving Fiat more product, it’s an important step for the internationalization of the Jeep brand.

At the old factory in Betim, Minas Gerais, Fiat will phase out the venerable 178 series of cars, while the new Palio and Grand Siena line will sit on top a version of the platform underpinning the current Brazilian Punto. The new Uno that sits on the 326 platform, an evolution of the old 178, will move up to hybridized version of  326, and the Punto’s platform. The Strada pickup will survive, but its final form is unknown.

As the new European Punto will sit on the same platform as the future 500, Fiat Brazil is at a loss as to what to do with the Linea and Idea. That means that the Punto is, as we say in Portuguese, subiu no telhado (about to jump of the roof). The Viaggio and Ottimo (Fiat’s version of the Dart) also have unclear futures in Brazil. Both were supposed to arrive, but they have been delayed indefinitely.

Part of the reason is that, Fiat Brazil is now a smaller player in the global FCA realm, and must now compete with Chrysler for money. The slowdown of Fiat’s factory expansions in Brazil is evidence of this. However, the contracting car market does help Fiat. As they are operating at among the highest capacities in Brazil, the no launch of new cars is, at the moment, a welcome and lucky break. The current models are very competitive and are doing well in the market. Any new cars might just push the limits of Fiat’s capacity in South America too far.

The Uno, which is the cheapest car in Brazil has just got some “awesome” decorative fluff-ware, enough to keep interest, in the media and public, and keep the old factory chugging along until 2016. Then,Fiat will be ready for action and hungry to get the 1 million plus sales they need down here in order to prove signore Marchionne is right, and that FCA not only has a future, but a bright one at that

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