While autonomous vehicles are still in the early stages of testing, a few of the European members of the United Nations have laid the groundwork for the self-driven future to come sooner than later.
Via Zero Hedge, we have a listing put up by the Italian government of 1,500 luxury cars that are being auctioned off. Italy, which is deep in the throes of austerity, is doing the wise thing from an optics perspective, as the cars have come to symbolize government waste and unnecessary opulence.
The European automobile market may be pulling out of its six year sales slump, according to Automotive News, with new car registrations in Germany up 7% in January from last year, joined by France, Italy and Spain reporting year to year increases for the month. German new car sales for the month were 206,000, the third monthly gain out of the past four months and the best monthly percentage improvement since September 2011. Analysts caution, though, that the growth in the German market was in part due to discounting.
However, industry executives and analysts warned that underlying demand may not be robust as Germany’s growth was in part attributable to generous price discounts. Ernst-Robert Nouvertne, who operates two Volkswagen stores near Cologne, said “Incentives are the name of the game. Headline sales are looking good but profit per car is crumbling. The (German) market is still pretty strained.” (Read More…)
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. (Read More…)
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.
1957. Italy was having a ball. La dolce vita was in full swing and Italians were on the up and up. Along came the original Fiat 500, or Cincuecento, to enliven things that much more. It’s hard to understand nowadays how exciting it is to see a nation get motorized, but the 500 helped Italians along and get over the World War doldrums.
Now, you Americans will be able to get a taste of that fabled time in recent Italian history. Fiat has cooked up an even more retro 500, Called the 1957 Edition, which seems to be an American special.
If you get it, you’ll be able to enjoy Fiat’s Multiair 1.4 16v engine good for 105 ponies mated to a manual or an auto 6 speed. More important than that, this special edition features a brown leather interior with sand colored details. Exterior colors are very 50-ish too: baby blue, water light green and white. The wheels are a modern take on 50s hubcaps and are 16 inches. According to sources, the suspension is calibrated in a more sporting set up. Finally, Fiat logos are done in the style of the 50s.
To be even more perfect I’d have called it Edizione 1957 to complete the Italian-ness. Call me jealous.
I have to admit, I’m a fan of the Fiat 500. Yes, I know it’s just a Fiat Panda with bubbly sheetmetal. Yes I know it’s a little peculiar. Yes I know it’s trying to ride on MINI success. It doesn’t matter, the wee Fiat makes me grin every time I drive one. Whether it’s the slow-as-dirt standard 500, the ludicrously loud Abarth, the almost-convertible 500c or the totally impractical 500e, the Cinquecento knows how to brighten my day. I was therefore excited when Fiat announced the 500′s success would spawn a four door stable-mate for 2014. Is the 500L 40% more smiles for 20% more cash?
Another day, another flip-flop on future product plans over at Casa di Marchionne. The latest news comes from Italian unions, who claim that the Maserati Levante will be built at the Mirafiori plant in Italy, rather than at Jeep’s plant in Detroit.