FIAT auto news

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Fiat 500X gets up close and personal

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Spy Photos, Crossovers/CUVs, FIAT

Fiat 500X prototype

Jeep's introduction of the Renegade just months ago at the Geneva Motor Show took the brand into new territory. Not only is it smaller than anything else Jeep makes, but it's also the first Jeep to be made outside of North America. But the Renegade is only half the equation.

Based on the same platform but with a much more rounded appearance will be a new Fiat crossover (at least tentatively) dubbed the 500X. Expected to arrive later this year, the 500X will replace the discontinued Suzuki-based Sedici and join the existing 500 hatchback, 500C convertible and 500L in Fiat's growing family of Cinquecento-themed models.

Pictured here in the latest batch of spy shots (sent to our photog by a sharp-eyed civilian, hence the slight quality issues), we can see the heavily disguised prototype up close, both inside and out. From the outside you can discern a much bubblier shape and rounded details than the Renegade, while the interior (apart from all the loose wires and warning signs) looks to adopt similar cues to the existing 500 family members, from the color-keyed dashboard panel to the rounded switchgear.

Details are few and far between at this point, but you can expect similar specs to the Jeep Renegade, which is driven by a range of four-cylinder engines from both the Fiat and Chrysler powertrain portfolios ranging from 109 horsepower to 168. Don't expect the same standard of go-anywhere off-road ability as its American counterpart, however.

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Fiat shareholders green-light Chrysler merger, end of an Italian era

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Chrysler, FIAT

ITALY FIAT

Fiat has just taken a major step away from its Italian heritage, as shareholders officially approved the company's merger with Chrysler. That move will lead to the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, a Dutch company based in Great Britain and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, according to Automotive News Europe.

The company captured the two-thirds majority at a special shareholders meeting, although there are still a few situations that could defeat the movement. According to ANE, roughly eight percent of shareholders opposed the merger, which is a group large enough to defeat the plan, should they all exercise their exit rights outlined in the merger conditions.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chairman John Elkann (pictured above, right, with CEO Sergio Marchionne and Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo), the great-great-grandson of Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli, reaffirmed his family's commitment to the company beyond the merger. Exor, the Agnelli family's holding company, still maintains a 30-percent stake in Fiat.

"I want to confirm today my own and my family's commitment to continue to support Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, even more so now that there are big opportunities on the horizon," Elkann told shareholders, according to ANE.

FCA will set up temporary offices in Slough, England, roughly 20 miles outside of London. Its offices in the UK's capital, meanwhile, should be open by the end of 2014. Despite the shift to the UK, FCA will still maintain IT and administration functions in Fiat's traditional home, Turin. Italy will also continue to play a major role in vehicle production, with the upcoming Jeep Renegade slated for production there, as well as new vehicles from Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

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Road Race Motorsports rolls out Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Sports/GTs, Hatchbacks, FIAT

Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

We've seen some pretty radical modifications based on the Fiat 500 - from the Abarth 695 Biposto to that ridiculous idea to put a Ferrari engine in the back of a Cinquecento - but we never seem to get tired of it. On that note, we bring you the Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione.

Built by Road Race Motorsports, the M1 takes a tarmac-rally approach and features an extensive list of modifications. For starters, the engine has been retuned to produce 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, helping to knock a second off the 0-60 time (7.2 seconds from the factory). Upgraded brakes net a 20-percent improvement in stopping distance, and Road Race has put a special emphasis on high-speed stability and cornering performance.

Other modifications include a limited-slip differential, carbon-kevlar clutch and a reworked suspension with Bilstein shocks, stiffer bushings and upgraded sway bar, with 16-inch wheels wearing Toyo Proxes rubber. In addition to a full carbon-fiber widebody kit that helps cut 120 pounds off the curb weight, Road Race has given the M1 a new front air dam, side skirts, hood vents, brake ducts and rear spoiler. The interior has similarly been upgraded with racing buckets, five-point harnesses and a roll cage.

Road Race will only build 50 individually numbered examples of what it calls "the only Special Edition Fiat built in the Western Hemisphere... since Fiat's reintroduction to North America." With an extensive list of options, prices range from $15k to $100k.

Continue reading Road Race Motorsports rolls out Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

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Fiat recalls nearly 30,000 Fiat 500L models

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Economy, Recalls/TSBs, Safety, Hatchbacks, Chrysler, FIAT

2014 Fiat 500L

Fiat has announced a recall of 29,500 Fiat 500L hatchbacks in the US and Canadian markets due to concerns that the roomiest member of the Fiat range features knee airbags that won't deploy unless the occupant's seatbelt is fastened.

There have been no injuries reported due to this issue, which affects vehicles from model years 2014 and 2015. Of the nearly 30,000 vehicles covered in this recall, 25,500 come from the US market, while the remaining 4,000 are from Canada. It's not clear what the underlying cause of this issue is.

Fiat knows of no injuries relating to this problem. As per usual, owners will be notified and asked to report in for a free repair.

Scroll down for a brief statement from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Continue reading Fiat recalls nearly 30,000 Fiat 500L models

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Fiat hangs ten with surf-inspired 500L Vans concept

07/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Concept Cars, Hatchbacks, FIAT

Fiat 500L-Vans Concept

Fiat 500L-Vans ConceptFiat is all set to ride some waves with its new 500L Vans Concept debuting at the Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA, on July 26. Inspired by the famous shoe company known to skaters and surfers the world over, the hatchback is packed with seaside style and is ready to show it off at the beach.

The first thing that jumps out about the concept is its grille. It's unlike any other 500L and sports four rings of LED driving lights that are open in the centers. "We added the circular LED DRLs to add a sense of purpose and adventure to this concept," said a Fiat spokesperson to Autoblog via email. Below them are two more foglights, and combined together they should be able keep a party going long into the night after a day of surfing.

Beyond a ton of lighting, the Vans Concept has some extra panache thanks to its three-tone color scheme. It starts with dark blue outlining the car along the bottom, white for the main portion of the body and a lighter shade of blue for the hood, mirror caps and tops of the doors. The roof gets the shoe company's' traditional checkerboard pattern, and there's a rack up there to hold two surfboards and extra gear.

The interior is an even bigger tribute to Vans with the company's stickers from over the years used to decorate the dashboard. Like its shoes, the seats are made from canvas, and the famous waffle sole tread pattern covers the pedals and storage bins.

This concept is more about style than speed, though. According to Fiat spokesperson Angela Bianchi, the drivetrain is left entirely stock with a 160-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a six-speed manual gearbox. The 500L will be on display throughout the event from July 26 to August 3, and will be joined by the rest of the brand's vehicles. Scroll down to learn more about Fiat's trip to the beach.

Continue reading Fiat hangs ten with surf-inspired 500L Vans concept

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VW, Fiat deny merger talks

07/18/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Volkswagen, Earnings/Financials, FIAT

Volkswagen badge

Fiat badgeAll parties involved are actively denying a potentially Earth-shattering shakeup in the automotive universe, as a German business publication claimed that Volkswagen and Fiat have been discussing the possibility of a merger.

The magazine, Manager Magazin, claimed that Fiat was looking to ditch its volume automotive business in order to focus even more heavily on Ferrari, according to Automotive News Europe. The report claims that the merger would allow Chrysler to help bolster the Volkswagen brand in the United States.

Not surprisingly, Volkswagen, Fiat and the Agnelli family (which owns a 30-percent stake in FCA) have all denied this report. VW has said it's focusing on efficiency within its own group, and isn't looking at any takeover plans, according to AN. The Agnelli family, meanwhile, has also denied talks, while Fiat officials say are unaware of any talks.

That hasn't stopped some analysts from speculating that a merger between the two companies might not be a horrible idea, although any potential deal likely wouldn't be a full-scale merger, so much as a piecemeal plundering.

"Volkswagen has an urge to become the number one global automaker, and an acquisition of that size would bring them to their target immediately," Juergen Pieper, an analyst with Frankfurt-based Bankhaus Metzler, told AN. Pieper cautioned, however, that due to Fiat's troubles in Europe and the potential for antitrust woes in South America that a full-scale merger would be "rather unrealistic."

As for the Manager Magazin report, Chrysler might not be able to help VW quite as much as the German publication thinks.

VW's issues "are more image and pricing problems and not so much problems of distribution and manufacturing," an unnamed auto analyst told AN. "Buying Chrysler would not really help VW."

Of course, should we hear anything else on this fascinating rumor, we'll be sure to check it out. Stay tuned.

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Ram to go on a Rampage with new small pickup?

07/16/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Spy Photos, Trucks/Pickups, Commercial Trucks, FIAT, Ram

Fiat Strada Rampage Prototype

When people look back at today's automotive industry, what do you think they'll remember us for? The emergence of hybrids? Ever more expensive and exotic supercars? The dawn of the self-driving car? All likely scenarios, but so is the blurring of lines between one bodystyle and another, giving rise to hardtop convertible coupes and crossovers of every shape and size. But one bodystyle the North American auto industry has stayed largely away from in the past couple of decades is a car nose and chassis with a pickup bed.

It's a bodystyle immortalized by the Chevrolet El Camino, but with few exceptions, we haven't seen too many of these automotive platypuses in recent years on our turf. Subaru tried with the Baja and the low-volume Honda Ridgeline soldiers along largely unchanged, but the genre's biggest adherents are still Down Under, where ute versions of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon live. With a few other examples scattered to the four corners of the earth, that's really about it. But if these spy shots are anything to go by, it looks like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could be working to bring it back.

Spied undergoing testing in Michigan, what we appear to be looking at is a heavily disguised Fiat Strada being prepared - like the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster and the smaller Doblo-based ProMaster City - for Stateside duty as a Ram product. The Strada, for those unfamiliar, is a product of Fiat Automóveis in Brazil and is based on the Palio economy car. The nameplate has been around South America since 1996 and was originally designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (long before Volkswagen monopolized his talents), and takes a more rugged approach in the form of the Strada Adventure.

The test mule pictured here (said by our spy shutterbugs on the scene to be packing a diesel and a stick) is obviously wearing some heavy body cladding, but that in and of itself - along with its presence in Auburn Hills near company headquarters with Michigan manufacturer plates - suggests something could be afoot. Of course, it's 100-percent possible that engineers are merely working on a foreign-market model at the company's US operations - especially with that drivetrain combination - but past rumors have hinted that the now-dead Dodge Dakota could come back as a different sort of vehicle. Most recently, it's been hinted that the project was shelved, possibly in favor of a Mitsubishi-based pickup, but that doesn't appear to be what we see here.

Whatever this is, it looks longer than a Strada, with a bigger bed and four proper doors instead of just two and appears to be riding higher on a jacked-up suspension - all presumably to meet North American tastes. Any taller and it'd look less like a ute and more like a truck... which may be good news to those who miss the Dakota, but in its present form, it looks more like a revival of the Rampage than anything else.

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Fiat turns to Funny or Die with new Italian-centric video spots

07/10/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Videos, Hatchbacks, Humor, FIAT

Fiat Neighbors Videos

The web video might be the sitcom of the modern age as the main way people consume comedy. Even if you don't want to sit down and watch a TV show, you can dedicate just a few minutes for a laugh from a brief film. Fiat found huge success last year with its Backseat Italians ad for the 500L on Funny or Die, with over 1.6 million views as of this writing. So the Italian automaker is playing on its country's stereotypes again in a new online series called Neighbors.

The concept behind the videos is super-simple. An attractive Italian couple with their Fiat 500L moves in next door to a stereotypical suburban family and hilarity ensues. Most of the shorts play up humorous misunderstandings in translation like with the phrase "When in Rome..." So far, the best of the bunch is probably Express Lane to Trouble about what happens when you drink too much espresso. If you like what you see, there are still two more episodes on the way soon.

Scroll down to watch all five current videos. They're only a few minutes long and should at least provide a good chuckle. You can also read Fiat's press release about the stunt, below.

Continue reading Fiat turns to Funny or Die with new Italian-centric video spots

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Street Glory Mappers turning cars into dynamic billboards like this

07/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Euro, Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Hatchbacks, MINI, SMART, FIAT

Street Glory Mappers

A French marketing firm with the impenetrable name of Street Glory Mappers is literally turning cars into billboards. Of course, we've all seen vehicles painted up for promotional use, but this company is taking that concept even further by including video.

Street Glory Mappers equips the vehicles with a large video screen behind the windshield to play whatever is being advertised. According to the company's promo, it may even be possibly to sync up the vehicle's lights with the show, as well. The firm claims that it's a great form of temporary, mobile marketing because the car can arrive at the location, play the video and then go away when the prospective audience leaves.

While it doesn't necessarily seem any more effective than other forms of advertising, the firm's idea is at least unobtrusive. After all, it's easier to ignore a stationary car than a person handing out flyers. However, vehicle flashing its lights and playing video could certainly distract other drivers.

While the promo only shows the video display working on a Smart Fortwo, the company's website also shows it on a Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and other vehicles. Scroll down to see this new marketing approach in action for yourself.

Continue reading Street Glory Mappers turning cars into dynamic billboards like this

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How Fiat explains its disastrous J.D. Power quality scores

07/03/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Wagons/Estates, Etc., FIAT

Fiat 500L

JD Power 2014 Initial Quality Survey ResultsBack in the '60s and '70s, Fiat didn't exactly have an enviable reputation for quality. Of course, lack of quality and a tarnished brand reputation eventually saw the Italian automaker flee the market, only to return with the 500 and the larger 500L in the last few years. However, if J.D. Power's Initial Quality Survey for 2014 is to be believed, modern Fiat products haven't improved quite as much as we might have hoped. Fiat thinks that there is a very simple explanation for its poor performance on the annual list, though.

J.D. Power's IQS looks at flaws among autos in the first 90 days that customers own their new vehicles. In 2014, Fiat wasn't only dead last, it was at the back of the pack by a significant margin. The company's cars tallied 206 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) compared to a national average of 116 PP100. Even Jeep, the survey's second-to-last finisher, had 146 PP100. Fiat's performance was pitiful.

However, it can all be explained, at least according to US Fiat boss, Jason Stoicevich, who spoke with Ward's Auto. He qualifies the results by stating that the survey came at a particularly bad time for the brand. It produced very few 2014 500 models to allow extra time to introduce the updated 2015 version. That meant that about 91 percent of its vehicles surveyed were examples of the 500L, "which is a new car where there are always quirks to work through," said Stoicevich to Ward's. With only one model providing data, it skewed the results. Of course, that's all well and good, but it suggests that the larger 500L is even more problematic than the overall brand's 206 problems per 100 vehicles.

Of course, we must again note that the "Q" in "IQS" is something of a misnomer. The J.D. Power survey in question doesn't actually only limit its scope to actual defects in product, it also takes into account aspects of a vehicle that may work as designed, but just not in a way that is to its owners satisfaction. Said another way, a cupholder that doesn't hold a Venti from Starbucks is a debatable "quality issue," at least compared to something like a navigation system that regularly freezes, let alone an actual mechanical malady like a stalling issue.

For his part, Stoicevich is promising a major improvement in next year's scores. His employer has to be careful, though. If it keeps having bottom-of-the-barrel initial quality scores, the old joking acronym about Fiat might haunt the brand in the US again.

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