Fiat:

2017 Fiat 124 Spider – Japanese Roadster with Italian Flair

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2017 Fiat 124 Spider F34 450Fiat Turns to Mazda for Iconic Sports Car  About 50 years after first launching the Fiat 124 Spider in the United States, Fiat is launching a new Spider in Summer 2016.  The last time the Fiat 124 Spider was sold in the USA was in 1983.  To gain a desirable roadster without having to develop the car themselves, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) turned to Mazda.

Fiat wants the 124 Spider to re-establish the sporty image of the brand and communicate “fun, joyous and optimistic” motoring.

Basically, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is a reskinned Mazda Miata propelled by a Fiat MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine.

Unique Exterior Styling  Take the outstanding Mazda MX-5 Miata and breathe Italian-ness on it and you have the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider.  With the rear wheel drive Mazda roadster platform as a base, Fiat has done an excellent job differentiating their little roadster from the Miata.   The proportions are definitely Miata, but the Fiat body is 5.5-inches longer with much of the length increase going to the trunk.  The exterior styling is different, maybe a bit more upscale looking.  The front end has a hexagonal grille with a honeycomb mesh flanked by styled headlamps.  It has a friendly face.  The rear has sharp horizontal LED taillamps.  Both the front and rear designs are reminiscent of the original 124 Spider.

Minor Interior Differentiation  The interior is lifted directly from the Miata with material upgrades here and there.  The seats are very comfortable and supportive with a unique sew style.  Two seat trim colors are available, black and saddle.  The saddle seat trim is very upscale looking and radio speakers in the headrests are a nice touch.  The interior has been optimized for quietness.  Being a roadster, wind buffeting can be a real problem, so care was taken in the windshield header and side window design to minimize buffeting at speed.  The top is one of the best features of the Fiat 124 Spider.  It can be opened or closed with one hand from either front seat.  Brilliant!

Unique Turbo Engine from Italy  The Fiat 124 Spider is powered by Fiat’s 1.4L MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine with 160-horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.  The engine block has been modified for longitudinal installation in the platform and to mate with Mazda’s excellent 6-speed manual transmission and 6-speed automatic transmission.

The suspension has been tuned a bit differently and the ride seems a bit more supple than on the Miata.  Handling is crisp as befits the short wheelbase.

Pricing Essentially Equivalent with Miata  There are three trim levels:  Classica, Lusso and Abarth.  There is also a 124 unit special edition car at launch – Prima Edizione Lusso (check all the boxes, unique blue color = $35,000).  The base Classica model is priced at $24,995 with the 6-speed manual transmission.  Destination charges are $995.  About 60% of the Fiat 124 Spider buyers are expected to opt for the automatic transmission that adds $1,350 to the price.  The volume model likely will be the $27,495 Lusso model that adds automatic headlamps, fog lamps, rain sensing wipers, automatic temperature control, leatherette and piano black instrument panel inserts, and 7-inch touch screen.  Selecting the sportiest Abarth model is $28,195.  When compared with the Miata, Lusso seems like a deal compared with the Miata Grand Touring ($31,270) except the Grand Touring Miata is fully loaded.  To get that level of equipment on the Fiat 124 Spider adds another $3,795 to the price putting the Fiat only $20 higher than the Miata (Fiat destination charge is $160 higher than Mazda – puts actual price difference at $180 higher than Miata).


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2016 Fiat 500X – a Solid Contender

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2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus2016 Fiat 500X Trekking PlusShared Platform with Renegade – Different Mission  At a glance, the 2016 Fiat 500X is a solid addition to the Fiat lineup in the USA. Built alongside the Jeep Renegade at FCA’s Melfi, Italy plant the 500X shares the Renegade’s platform but has a dramatically different mission that demands tuning and settings to be very different.  While the Renegade Trailhawk is at home off-road, the 500X is for the cities and suburbs.


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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Upgraded… Great Gets Greater

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Award Winner Gets Major Changes After Only Three Years The 2012 Grand Cherokee has been arguably the best affordable “real” SUV on the market since the latest generation was launched for the 2011 model year.  The Grand Cherokee was so good that its owners rated it higher enough against its competition to win AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award in 2011 and 2012 AND AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award in 2011 and 2012!  This sweep in these tough-to-win owner awards is testament to the excellence of the Grand Cherokee.

Developed in Time of Hardship The 2011 Grand Cherokee was developed during the dark days of the reign of Cerberus Capital Management.   Their ownership of Chrysler steered the firm to the bankruptcy courts and a bailout by the U.S. and Canadian government, UAW and CAW.  Ultimately, Fiat took control of Chrysler and Jeep and the firm is now prospering.  It is surprising that under the eyes of Cerberus, the 2011 Grand Cherokee turned out to be such a good vehicle.

Best Gets Better Like other Chrysler products (Chrysler 300, Chrysler 200, Dodge Charger, Ram 1500), Jeep’s product team has reinvigorated the vehicle but mostly under the skin.  The front fascia is new.  Taillamps are new.  A couple of wheel designs are new.  And the interiors are new and much more upscale.  Grand Cherokee gets Chrysler’s latest iteration of its excellent and easy to use UConnect system.  Gone is the 5-speed automatic transmission replaced by a silky smooth 8-speed unit.  A 240HP 3.0L V6 diesel is available for the first time.  So, the Grand Cherokee is a substantially upgraded version of the 2011 vehicle.  And it works!


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Abarth – Fiat 500 for Guys

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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.

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

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 Abarth Scorpion Shield


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2012 FIAT 500 Sport: No Premium Here for Italian Style

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Of all the vehicles I have tried out over the past two months since joining the VehicleVoice staff, the 2012 FIAT 500 Sport was by far the biggest attention grabber. Even my neighbor, whom I have never heard a word from in over two years, came up to me to inquire about my latest ride. His final words to me: “You’re gonna have a hard time picking up girls with this car.”

Its diminutive size may give the 500 a somewhat feminine gait, but the car no doubt draws looks wherever it goes.  Regardless of the image the FIAT 500 may have portrayed, I was a bit amused by all the stares I got from zipping around town in this car.

Inspired by the original FIAT 500 minicar of 1957, the new 500 pays stylistic homage to that car but takes its soul into the 21st century.  It is certainly one of  the smallest cars for sale in the U.S., which could end up being a challenge for the car…or a unique differentiator.


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White House Ousts GM's Wagoner – Questions Viability

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President Barack Obama delivered an address to the nation this morning at 11AM where he summarized the results of review of General Motors and Chrysler by The Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry. The conclusion of the report was that neither of the plans presented to the Task Force by GM and Chrysler are viable.
Wagoner Gone – Replaced by Henderson: Immediately, General Motors’ Chairman Rick Wagoner was let go to be replaced by Fritz Henderson – a very capable and experienced senior executive. Clearly, the Task Force determined that the GM plan did not go far enough. GM now has another sixty days to rework the plan and come back with a viable approach. If they do not, the government can move the Corp into bankruptcy to get its house in order.
Our question is “What will GM’s brand and vehicle line profile look like on June 1?”
Chrysler and Fiat Agree to the Framework of a Tie-Up: Minutes after Obama’s speech, Chrysler announced the it had reached developed a framework for a tie-up with Fiat with the blessing of the Treasury Department. Fiat receives a third share of Chrysler for technology sharing allowing Chrysler to launch competitive new products based on Fiat powertrains and platforms. This is needed to keep Chrysler competitive. Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli keeps his job because he has been at the helm for a relatively short time (since August 2007) compared with Wagoner’s eight years at the helm.
Government to Guarantee Warranties (Warrantees): Obama stated that beginning today the warranties offered by GM and Chrysler are stronger than they have ever been because they would be guaranteed by the government. Also, adopting a spelling not seen for decades, the government refers to these plans as “warrantees”. This support by the government is to create confidence in purchasing a new General Motors or Chrysler vehicle today.
Other Actions – Tax Credits, Scrappage Plans, Etc: Obama also mentioned the sales tax credit for purchasing a new vehicle that has been approved by Congress. Pending are plans for incentives to scrap older, gross polluters.
Further Question: Ford: Ford Motor Company has not taken part in government loan guarantees having planned financially for tough years back in 2006. While Ford is struggling like GM and Chrysler it does not seem to be hurt as much in the market as they are. Market share is not down as much.
How will Ford be impacted by the statements of the President, The Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry, and the restructuring forced on GM and Chrysler by the government? Will Ford thrive or continue to struggle?
Another Question: Financial Company CEOs: Rick Wagoner fell on the sword for General Motors performance during his tenure but you can argue that the performance of the financial community has been much worse and much more damaging to the economy. Where can we see the heads of the banks, investment banks, and insurance company CEOs rolling down Main Street?


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Exhaust Note #20: BMW and Fiat Consider Working Together

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Does Alfa Finally See Their U.S. Dreams Come True?
In another example of automakers looking to partner and share synergies rather than swallow one another whole, Fiat and BMW entered into a memorandum of understanding to evaluation cooperative opportunities. They’ve formally agreed to talk about how, and if, they can help one another.
Alfa Romeo may have the most ego wrapped up into the outcome. Desperate to get back into the U.S. car market, Alfa wants the next-generation of the 147 be the lead volume product. They’ve further announced the intent to start building cars in the States in 2011CY, and have started looking for partners to make that happen as well. Technically they do return this summer with the low-volume 8C Competzione and next year with the convertible 8C, but Alfa’s only building 1000 8Cs, including both bodystyles, for worldwide consumption. With only about 100 8C coupes being offered here, the image-building 8C doesn’t make much of an impact on the market.

Alfa_07_8C_bl.jpg


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Suzuki SX4: A Post-Modern SUV for Suzuki

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Suzuki’s new small Post-Modern SUV (or crossover, or sport wagon) joins its North American lineup after an introduction at the 2006 New York show in April, 2006. Sales are scheduled for late Summer 2006 in the States, and the U.S. and European spec versions will carry similar styling. The SX4 is the result of a joint project between Fiat and Suzuki, with production by Suzuki at their plant in Hungary and using a Suzuki platform. (The Fiat, called Sedici will, of course, not be seen Stateside.) While this product is well-suited for international markets, its appeal in the States is likely to be limited and largely driven by a combination of value-pricing and its relatively fuel-efficient 2.0L DOHC I4 drivetrain. North American buyers will choose between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Suz_07_SX4_a.jpg


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