After driving the Fiat 500 and 500c (cabriolet), I was ready to relegate it to the ranks of “chick car”. Its high-style accents and accoutrements scream “feminine”. But, now there is a Fiat a guy can be proud to drive – the Abarth model. Abarth Fiats have been high performance versions of Fiat car lines for decades since Austrian Karl Abarth began modifying them in the late ’50s. This is America’s chance to have the most up-to-date Abarth available.
Scorpions Anyone? At a glance you can tell the Abarth is something special. Starting with the Fiat 500 Sport, the Abarth adds a unique front fascia that is actually functional making room for the 160HP 1.4L MultiAir 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Abarth is not shy about shouting what it is. The Abarth scorpion logo is found on the quarter panels, on the decklid, on the grille and on centers of the wheels. There is also a lower bodyside stripe shouting “ABARTH”. The outside mirrors sport contrasting colors depending on the interior color selection and matching the Abarth bodyside stripe. The mirror caps and Abarth stripe are a $350 option.
Fiat Taps Internet for Customer Input in Finishing the 2008 500
In Europe, Fiat is still alive if struggling, though the company left North America years ago. They are creating a new minicar for the 2008 model year that revives a well-loved old name for the company, the 500, and on May 2, 2006, launched an interactive consumer site promoting the upcoming model, www.fiat500.com. Though the 500 is not coming to the States, we at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific couldn’t resist checking this site out for ourselves, and sharing it with you. The future will only hold more sites along these lines, but for now they are uncommon and exciting.
The 500 itself is not relevant for the U.S. market. Some U.S. buyers may be willing to go smaller as gas gets more expensive, but not likely this small. Still, Fiat’s approach to launching the car and gathering consumer input is innovative and a model other manufacturers can take inspiration from. We find this heavily and truly interactive, user-friendly launch site very intriguing.
This new site has the mission of getting people interested and excited about the new car, as well as gathering and testing the product’s direction. People from everywhere can choose their language, redesign the site’s homepage, enter their own 500 stories in the “500-ology” section, participate in a design contest
coordinated with Designboom
(an independent industrial design web magazine), and configure their own version in the concept car lab. Once you’ve created a new look for the homepage, or your own wacky car in the Concept Car lab, you can save it for others to use, view, and comment on. If you like someone else’s design for the homepage, you can adopt it as your own. If you almost like someone else’s Concept Car, you can order it up and tweak it yet again to make it your own.
As we write this blog on May 3, initial response is outstanding. The saved Concept Cars and home pages are growing quickly. There were more than 260 Concept Cars in the lab’s gallery. In the 500-ology section, we found nearly forty comments posted, in a variety of languages, most not English. Individual homepage redesigns are slower in being added, but they are there.