Fiat unveiled two new 500’s for the US market- the Gucci and the Abarth. The Gucci 500 is designed in partnership with Gucci, features traditional Gucci stripe on the seatbelts and the convertible ragtop. The ad features Jennifer Lopez driving through New York City, the perfect city for a 500, and emerging in a chic Gucci evening gown. I think this is important because cars need to be exciting, not just efficient. Fiat clearly agrees, as they prefaced the entire launch with comments like “Most people have an arranged marriage with their cars. There is no passion.” To bring the passion to a (usually female), fashion-conscious consumer, what better way than to partner with one of the greatest fashion houses of Italy?
For the gents (in typical Italian gender bias, as I discovered at EICMA) they offer the Abarth- a 500 designed to be a proper sportscar. The Abarth features a 1.4L SOHC 16-valve turbocharged Multiair® inline 4-cylinder motor with 160bhp. Last year when they first launched the 500 for the US market, here at the LA Auto Show, Fiat was concerned they might be “flirting with the irrational” as they put it. However, if the growing number of 500’s I see on the streets of LA, it was clearly a solid business decision. The Gucci and Abarth are designed to capture the customers who have certain expectation of an Italian brand. Italian products are synonymous with style, speed, and sexiness. The Fiat 500 that was launched in 2011 wasn’t really any of these, but holds the same sort of novel appeal as a Mini. However, with an average 30mpg according to fueleconomy.gov, the 500 certainly has economic appeal. The price is right too, ranked 9th in affordable small cars by USNews. It remains to be seen what sort of premium customers will pay for the sporty Abarth or the chic Gucci model. Both are likely to remain efficient, but Fiat has yet to release MPG for the 160bhp Abarth.