April 26, 2009

Move Over Mini? Fiat 500 could be the next big little thing

There is at least one bright spot in all the gloom surrounding the US auto industry today: Fiat might soon own a big slice of Chrysler Jeep Dodge. Why is this good news? Fiat makes some cool stuff, not the "least" of which is the ultra-cool Fiat 500. And the deal with Chrysler may bring this affordable high mileage mini-car to America.

Italian automakers have always had the ability to sell their vehicular technology on the basis of lifestyle and aesthetics (c.f. Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Lambretti, Ducati). The new Fiat 500 is no exception, except it is undoubtedly more reliable than the old Fiats most Americans have known (a.k.a. Fix It Again Tomorrow). This remake of the original mini-car from the 1950s and 60s is really exciting stuff. Even Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson was impressed. And check out Motor Trend raving about the fiesty 500 Abarth pictured here.

Also check out design of the Fiat 500 web site. Also cool. And there's talk of a diesel version and an electric version (of the car, not the web site). What's not to love? As to reliability. I've rented Fiats on several trips to the UK in recent years and had no problems. In fact, I even owned a Fiat Strada in the U.S. in the 1980s, probably the last time Fiat had dealership arrangements this side of the Atlantic. I put a lot of highway miles on that little hatchback across many Western states and I don't ever recall it failing to start (I even cut a hole in the roof and fitted a sunroof--but that's another story.

The Italian connection continues in our diesel Jeep Liberty, the engine of which is sourced from Italy. We've put 38,000 miles on it since late 2005, through all kinds of weather including deep winter. It's towed big trailers for days with no complaint. I like it. I also like the idea of Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealers carrying small Fiats. If they do it right, I'm thinking they could sell like hotcakes.

No comments: