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McBlog: Fiat Delivers a slap in the face.

Where’s the lease?

by on May.29, 2012

Supermodel Catinel Menghia poses with a Fiat 500 Abarth. She can slap us any day, but why is Fiat punching out its customers? asks McBlog author Denise McCluggage.

Doug, a friend and regular at Santa Fe’s Tuesday Car Table, test drove a Fiat 500 Cabriolet that I had for a week and loved it. But considering our city’s 7000-feet altitude decided a turbo was indicated. He’d wait for the Abarth. He told Fred Vang, another Car Table regular, to order one for him. That’s what Fred does, connects people and cars.

As a Personal Car Consultant he helps clients decide what new car best suits their needs and does all the wheeling-dealing and sees that they get the best deal delivered ding-free and clean to their door.

Fred is fond of telling clients: “You seem to know what you want but do me a favor: dance with a couple more before you get married.”

In this case since Doug had driven a number of alternatives, the dancing was Fred running numbers, checking with many sources for prices on three cars, all with Doug’s options. The three: Mini Cooper S, VW Golf GTI and the Fiat Abarth.

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Fred compiled the numbers on a grid and presented them to Doug with a detailed explanation. Doug said it was like “a slap in the face” like in the Fiat Abarth ad featuring the leggy model Catrinel Menghia, dressed in red and black. And that’s why Doug arrived at our monthly Car Table driving a new VW Golf GTI.

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Can “Bad Boy” Charlie Sheen – and High-Performance Abarth Finally Sell Fiat?

“House Arrest” spot part of racy shift for Italian maker after disastrous debut.

by on Mar.05, 2012

Supermodel Catrinel Menghia poses with a Fiat 500 Abarth during the car's media drive in Las Vegas.

It may be small, but one thing the Fiat 500 has is a lot of attitude – all the more so since the Italian maker introduced the sporty new Abarth edition.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that what the marque’s global brand boss calls the “bad boy of the Fiat line-up” should turn to the bad boy of the entertainment world, Charlie Sheen, to draw some attention.

The spot, which was pulled at the last minute from the Super Bowl, gave Fiat officials some “sleepless nights,” a senior official admits, but after a delayed launch has been generating plenty of buzz from a brand that had barely registered on most consumers’ radar until recently.

Fiat got off to a nearly disastrous debut little more than a year ago, sales for all of 2011 coming in at barely half the initial forecast – leading Fiat to oust its U.S. marketing chief.

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Since then, the maker has ramped up its marketing efforts, first with a series of controversial Jennifer Lopez commercials, following up with supermodel Catrinel Menghia’s racy “Seduction” spot first aired during the Super Bowl.

Now comes Sheen, shown racing the Fiat 500 Abarth inside his mansion during a party – the “tiger blood” actor explaining how much fun he is having while under “house arrest.”

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First Drive: Fiat 500 Abarth

Why did we have to wait so long?

by on Mar.05, 2012

The Fiat 500 Abarth delivers subtle visual tweaks -- and a 60% boost in power.

You can’t sell a young man an old man’s car, goes the old automotive marketing adage.  And, the conventional wisdom goes, it’s tough to sell a guy a “secretary’s car.” Now, we’ve got nothing against secretaries, but the term usually applies to products that are more show than go.  And, arguably, that applied to the Fiat 500 hatchback that rolled into U.S. showrooms a year ago.

The Italian automaker is quick to note that it’s already sold over 500,000 of the 3-door microcars outside the U.S., but demand in the States has been sorely lagging behind expectations, and the anemic little 101-horsepower engine is likely one reason why.  But perhaps things are about to change.

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With the help of supermodel Catrinel Menghia and “bad boy” actor Charlie Sheen, Fiat is staging a high-amp launch for the new Fiat 500 Abarth.  With its taut suspension, 160-horsepower engine – and subtle styling tweaks that give it a bit of its own bad-boy look, the Abarth is the machina the Italian automaker should have brought State-side from the start.

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