By on May 16, 2010

Got up bright and early this beautiful chilly morning. The sun is out and there are no clouds in the blue autumn sky. (Get used to it. It’s autumn in Brazil.) Reminds me again of some American friends, who say that a trip to Brazil is worth it just to see the sky. Anyway, the plan is to hit the dealer at opening time and check out all the hype surrounding the new Uno. As luck would have it…

My wife is awakened by my moving around. Seeing that I’m going out, she “suggests” I run a few errands. I tell her I can’t, “you see baby, I’m on an official TTAC fact-finding mission”. No luck. She says, “Well, honey, are they paying you? So, you better run the errands.”

So, instead of hitting the dealership at the crack of dawn, I get there around 10am. Well, I thought, the new Uno must be doing well judging by all the cars parked out front. The place must be very full. And interestingly enough, the cars belong to all different sorts of brands. I think, “Conquest sales are in the making”.

I finally find a place to park. Walk into the dealer and the place is packed. I count at least 15 salesmen and women, 5 or 6 beautiful young receptionists, 3 waiters, and 3 desperate monitors trying to entertain maybe 30 or 40 screaming kids. One of the aforementioned receptionists comes up to me and asks what I would like to see today. I mention the Uno. She smiles and slips me a piece of paper with the number 14 written on it. I ask her what’s that and she responds that that’s my place in line and that a salesman will be with me shortly. She shows me to the snack bar and offers me a coffee. I sit back and take it all in.

Lots to see. The salesmen are pitching their wares feverishly. People are walking in and out of the dealer all the time. People are getting into and out of the car. There is actually a line to sit in the star of the show, the new Uno. There’s only one in the showroom. I get into that line and finally get to sit in the car. Worries about the plastics and finishing slowly evaporate. Nothing first rate, but nothing really embarrassing in its price range. Actually, the feel and look of the steering wheel are quite good, same as the feel of the seats. But wow is that door handle ever cheap and ugly. Mostly though, Fiat has done a good job of hiding all the cost-saving measures.

I get out of the car and walk around it. It’s a surprising design. Full of little lines and curves breaking the overall boxy theme. There’s a reason Fiat people are calling this design language the “round square”. I find it youthful and handsome (in a masculine way). Quirky? Not really, it works. As I’m analyzing the looks of the car, the person sitting in it turns the radio on and out of the speakers come the song John Lennon wrote for his son when he was born. How appropriate. “Beautiful, Beautiful Boy”, indeed.

And then, I feel the pangs again. I want this baby. I channel my inner-Steven Lang and fight it. “Your car is fine”, I mumble to myself. “The new Uno will start being discounted in a few months. Let the idiots pay the privilege of getting a spanking brand new car!” Somehow, I calm myself down. There was a moment there I almost pulled out my wallet and shouted, “Yes! I’ll take it!” Close, very close.

After half an hour, it’s my turn to sit with a salesman. I tell him I’m not buying today. Well that’s good he says. Let the craze die down a little. Why I ask. He said he’s sold 6 of them in the first 2 hours of that day. And that they’re promising the clients they’ll have the car in about a month. He confides though that that’ll be the case for those who order a standard edition. For those who order an unusual package it’ll take longer. He said some who put a down payment today will have their car in maybe 3 months.

I ask about a test drive. He rolls his eyes and smiles. “Sure. Sign the waiting list”. I think about my wife and thank him for his time. Enough of waiting and waiting lists for today.

As I walk out of the dealership, I can’t resist and turn my head back to look at that beautiful little car, proudly wearing its highlight yellow pen coat of painting. “Steven Lang”, I say under my breath, “Steven Lang”, I repeat like a mantra, “Steven Lang, Steven Lang”.

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23 Comments on “Carnaval Time At Brazilian Fiat Dealers...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Photo looks like a 500.

    Byline says Bertel Schmidt?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Writing so compelling I can almost taste it. Thank you!

  • avatar
    jcap

    Here are some pictures of the car:
    http://uno.fiat.com.br/

    The asymmetric grill is an interesting design element, where have i seen that before?

  • avatar
    jcap

    So this car is only for the Brazilian market?

    Wikipedia says:
    “The new Uno is engineered at Brazil and co-designed with Turin’s Fiat Centro Stile.”

    You said Fiat, VW, Ford, GM are viewed as domestic in Brasil.
    Do these domestics export cars to other South-american country’s?

    In Europe Fiat sells the Panda in this market segment, i think…

    I found an example of this grill design, old Panda:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fiat_panda_1_v_sst.jpg

    • 0 avatar

      From what I`ve read, Fiat wants to produce 12 thousand of them a month. Of those, 2000 are for export and will wind up in Mexico and all countries in South America. So, soon you`ll see this car driving along in Colombia, chile, Argentina et al. and if you go to Mexico you might see some of them too.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Wonderful write-up, brings back childhood memories of sitting in dad’s Chevy dealership, any year between 1955-1961, on the day that the new Chevrolet’s were released to the public.

    Boy, I miss that kind of excitement.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Can you imagine if Chevrolet (or even Ford, for that matter) had a product that created such a buzz? That’s something you just don’t see anymore at vehicle launches here in the States (but then, who really got excited about the Cobalt or Focus?). Sure, the PT Cruiser did back in the day, but Chrysler couldn’t sustain the momentum (granted, my 65 year old mother STILL loves the look of the PT Cruiser convertible, especially in the raspberry metallic). Hope that Fiat can keep up the good buzz for the Uno!

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    I like the fact that FIAT thinks anyone will believe 200km/h out of a 1.0L!
    Marcelo what is the projected mpg of a Uno? Does it look like it might do on the hwy or is it just a city car?

    • 0 avatar

      Well according to numbers I got at bestcars.com.br, and they’re just repeating the numbers given to them by Fiat, top speed for the 1.0 is 151kn/h on Brazilian gas and 153km/h on ethanol. For the 1.4 things improve to 170km/h on gasoline and 172km/h on ethanol.

      Acceleration from 0 to 100km/h is achieved in 14.7sec on gas and 13.8sec w/ ethanol w/ the 1.0 engine. Now the 1.4 does the same in 11.1 sec on gas and 10.8 sec w/ ethanol.

      These numbers are usually not very different from real life. Sometimes sites and magazines get better, sometimes worse numbers than what Fiat declares.

      Now, the consumption numbers. The official Brazilian norm is what Fiat usually reports. However, this is a deeply flawed method (empty/basic car, no A/C, constant speed). I usually use them as a reference against the competition. In real life I’d expect numbers 30% worse. Though theoretically, driving very conservitavely, you’ll get close to them. But it’s almost impossible to do so. In any case, as always, YMMV.A

      Anyway, the offical numabers are: city driving for the 1.0 15.6km/l for the gasoline and 10.5km/l for the ethanol. Highway is 20.1km/l on gas and 12.9km/l on ethanol. The 1.4 gets in the city 14.7km/l and 10.3 km/l (gas and ethanol) and on the highway it gets 19.4km/l on gas and on ethanol 12.8km/l.

  • avatar
    Augie the Argie

    I find this car will have a cult following, and perhaps become the new Bug in the US in the not so distant future. There something ugly and at the same time beautiful about the car, like those Pandas from the 80s. Premium small little cars are the norm in the US right now, why not a econobox with some hip? Maybe call it a Dodge unOne (Uno/One) which might help keep the unions into the fold by the model’s name and also by having Chrysler build it in Michigan.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      Maybe (big one) your market would accept the Uno as a Logan style car.
      Which is cheap, basic and no frill transportation.

      However, the tea-sipper buff-book writers would absolutely destroy it based on the interior plastics, engine size, etc…

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Man, 1.0lt engine. How can you drive a car with such small engine?

    The gearbox must be ultra short

    “Well, honey, are they paying you? So, you better run the errands.”

    LOL, I guess they behave like a “government” down there too.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      I can’t speak as a Brazilian but I am married to one. A couple things I’ve notice int he neck of the woods (SJC, Sao Paulo, Brazil) there that I’ve been in quite a bit:

      1) Almost everything is a stick. No waiting for a slushbox to hunt around. With my father in laws 1.8 (I think ~ 100hp) you just wring the heck out of it and it’s “Acceptable” compared to other traffic.
      2) I see very few people on the highway going over 70mph. Maybe thats just where I driver there…..
      3) Lots of hills = slower speed (at least in SJC)
      4) Speed cameras at bottom of hill = lower speed
      5) Do people drive crazy? Yes, do people hang out at 130km/h all the time? I’ve never seen it…Although here in Chicago where the speed limit is 55, it’s not uncommon for traffic to be moving at 70-85.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Hmmm…youthful and handsome it may well be, but photogenic it is not.

    The excessive gray cladding reminds me of the Rover Streetwise, not at all a good thing.

    The trim across the lower portion of the doors creates a busy, fractured look.

    The thick D-pillar needlessly creates a blind spot.

    The asymmetrical hood vents are nostalgic, but look tacked-on when combined with Fiat’s current design language.

    The green car pictured looks like it’s jacked-up. Other photos I’ve seen show a lower car, but

    my main gripe is that the whole car from the A-pillar rearward looks far too small for the blunt and bulky nose.

    No matter the angle, the new Uno exhibits an abandonment of elegant proportions and clean functional design and new nineties-Pontiac-like emphasis on tacky bells and whistles.

    I expect more from an Italian automaker than something that looks like it was cooked up by Geely five years ago.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Oh my goodness. You just gave me the laugh and thrill of the month.

    To have someone mutter my name 5000+ miles away in tribute to their inner tightwad is just plain awesome.

    If you ever find your way to Atlanta before I sell a 1992 Volvo 240 that I just got for free… I’ll give it to you.

    Please feel free to spread that mantra use of my name to the wife, friends, dogs, anyone who will listen. I’ll even settle for inanimate objects.

    I can imagine fewer things more beautiful than to have a friend you never met use your name in a good way.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Oh my goodness. You just gave me the laugh and thrill of the month.

    To have someone mutter my name 5000+ miles away in tribute to their inner tightwad is just plain awesome.

    If you ever find your way to Atlanta before I sell a 1992 Volvo 240 that I just got for free… I’ll give it to you.

    Please feel free to spread that mantra use of my name to the wife, friends, dogs, anyone who will listen. I’ll even settle for inanimate objects.

    I can imagine fewer things more beautiful than to have a friend you never met use your name in a good way.

    • 0 avatar

      So glad you saw my article. When I say you’re an inspiration to many, believe it! You changed the way I see cars. And use them. And I’ll save a bunch of money because of it. Plus I’ll get to enjoy my babies as they age. Priceless. Thanks Steven.

      And if you find you’re way to Brazil, pls do give me a ring. We’ll set something up.

      And thanks for that most generous offer! The price of bringing one of those beauties down to Braziljust doesn’t justify the hassle. But I’m touched and honored by your offer.

      Thanks for (really) making my life better.

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