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Is There a Fiat in Your Future?

Posted in auto industry, Cars, Chrysler, Compact Cars, Fiat, Foreign Cars, General, New Cars by Alex Kierstein | May 3rd, 2009 | 3 Responses |

Fiat, that bastion of endless jokes about Italian reliability (at least to us in North America), quite possibly has moved beyond that pigeonhole. With their impending partnership with Chrysler looming, it seems to be the consensus among both pundits and the business-minded that Fiat will bring over some of their cars for sale in the US and Canada. Whether they will be branded as Fiats, Dodges, Hispano-Suizas, or Edsels is anybody’s guess. We think it might be useful to look over the current Fiat lineup to see what might be heading our way. Our four-cheeseburger rating system will give you a sense of what we’ll see on these shores.

(Nuova) 500

(Nuova) 500: the little numerical beast has generated loads of press on both sides of the pond. What’s the big deal? Well, it shares platform architecture with the Ford Ka, another tiny city car popular in Europe. Plus, it’s cute as a button, follows in the footsteps of the successful MINI brand, and comes in Abarth versions for the sportscar-minded. It’ll be a hit. Think about how many of those Vespa scooters you see tooling about … all of those folks will want one.

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Bravo: A small family car (think VW Golf, one of its main competitors in Europe). In fact, that’s probably a good way to imagine it – an Italian VW Golf. Stylish and sporty (at least by European hatchback standards), this one’s a toss-up for the American market.

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Grande Punto 3 and 5 door

Grande Punto 3 and 5 door: Despite being labeled “Grande,” this is still a supermini car. It’s slightly larger than the Punto, and it’s built off of a different platform, the GM Gamma SCCS. Don’t worry if that doesn’t mean anything to you, it just describes GM’s worldwide supermini platform. Despite the GM architecture, we think there is a high likelihood of seeing this little beast in the US to do battle with the Smart, the new Ford Fiesta, and other such tiny cars.

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Punto: There is a lot of overlap in Fiat’s model lineup. The Punto is, unsurprisingly, a smaller version of the Grande Punto and built on a slightly different platform. The smart money is on only one version of the Punto crossing the Atlantic, if any, and our money is on the Grande version.

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Nuova Croma

Nuova Croma: A mid-sized 5-door, the Croma is built on GM’s Epsilon platform, shared with the Saab 9-3. It seems unlikely that a car that shares its DNA with a SAAB will survive in a stripped-down Chrysler-Fiat operation, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the Croma cluttering up our Chrysler dealerships.

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Nuovo Doblo

Nuovo Doblo: Despite Ford’s decision to bring over the Transit Express, a small utility van, Fiat is unlikely to take such a risk. Shame really, it’s a useful vehicle in a tidy, if not particularly attractive, package.

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Multipla: This strange vanlet is probably best known for its controversial styling that lasted from 1998 to 2004. Mercifully facelifted, this van has seating for 6 in two rows of bench seats. It’s unlikely that we’ll see the Multipla in this market, however useful a vehicle it is. It’s just too bizarre.

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Panda and Panda 4×4

Panda and Panda 4×4: Much like the Multipla and the Doblo, this one is sort of a strange concept to Americans. Think of it as a tiny Subaru Forrester, and you’ll get the idea. As cool as that would be, conventional wisdom says the Panda will stay in Europe.

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Ulysse: This van came out of the “Eurovan” collaboration between Lancia, Citroen, Fiat, and Pugeot. With minivans being one of the few assets that Chrysler has worth saving (although hopefully a restyling is on the menu), it seems like this will not cross over to our shores.

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fiat-sediciSedici: If you own a Suzuki SX4, this will look familiar … because it is one! Apparently the SX4 was co-developed by Suzuki and Fiat and is currently produced in a Suzuki plant in Hungary. Therefore it would be really simple to sell this car in the US, as the Suzuki version is already here. The SX4 has been well received for being an inexpensive and not half-bad little AWD car. So who knows?

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3 Responses

  1. TRL says:

    So basically there will be nothing in the Camry/Fusion/Accord/Malibu class? That doesn’t sound too smart.

    I do think if they took a chance on the Multipla with Chrysler’s history of telling the world what a min-van should be might be a surprise run-away new segment. Sure more practical than a Clubman.

  2. Alex says:

    TRL – well, I think it’s important to remember that Fiat is probably not coming back in full force to sell cars in the US. They’re most likely to be the small-car developer and supplier for a US presence, maybe under the Dodge brand. So, will Fiat help Chrysler develop a car to replace the Sebring/Avenger and compete in that class? Quite possibly, but I don’t think any of the Fiat models fits the bill right now. But you’re right, none of the Fiats as-is would compete in that class.

    As for the Multipla, I think the killer is that it has two rows of bench seats. That’s it. From my experience, most buyers would be happier with 3 rows of bucket seats so they don’t have to sit right next to a sibling. That’s not saying it’s better – I like the Multipla, much like I like the Mazda 5. You don’t always need a huge Dodge Grand Caravan.

  3. Me and my shadow says:

    The Multipla does not have bench seats, it has two rows of three individual, fully adjustable, full size seats.

    If you have a family of 3, you can remove the three from the back completely and you can all sit together companionably and fit bikes and all sorts in the back.