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Fiat’s Vans Concept 500 Tapping “Board” Culture

New vehicle latest to try to draw surfing fans.

by on Jul.28, 2014

The Fiat 500L-Vans concept is designed to supplant the traditional "woody" as the vehicle of choice for surfing fans.

Cars and surfing enjoy a special relationship on the beach and in popular culture, especially in Southern California where vehicles such as Woody wagons became embedded local lore. Fiat recently partnered with Vans adding another vehicle to the list of makers looking to capitalize on the “board” culture: the Fiat 500L-Vans concept.

Over the years, makers have sought to capitalize on the connection by customizing vehicles with surfers and their fans in mind. The Honda Element was the most recent stab at it and and Chrysler also brought out a Woody version of the PT Cruiser.

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Fiat’s new concept is making a play for the surfing crowd and it was unveiled over the weekend at the Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California. (more…)

Fiat Ponders Future Product Options

Might microcar maker look to something bigger?

by on Jun.17, 2013

Two versions of the new Fiat 500L, the Lounge and the Trekking. The maker is now looking at future products.

With the 500L, its second distinct product line, now rolling into U.S. showrooms, Fiat is pondering where to go next.  The maker is hoping to broaden its appeal with an expanding array of microcars – but several senior officials hint that something a bit bigger could be in the cards, as well. The question now being debated internally is just how much bigger the brand can go.

After a painfully slow start, Fiat finally clicked with U.S. consumers in 2012, sales surging to 43,000, in line with earlier forecasts.  The maker is hoping that the new 500L could bump that volume up substantially, the little people-mover potentially generating as much as half of the brand’s U.S. sales, according to Jason Stoicevich, who recently took over as North American brand boss.

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He is quick to stress that doesn’t mean sales will double, as some potential Fiat buyers might switch from the little 500 coupe to the 500L – which is a full 27 inches longer and offers interior space nearly as big as the full-size Chrysler 300 sedan.

“We’re not going to set (unhealthy) numbers we have to chase,” Stoicevich told during an interview in Baltimore where Fiat gave automotive journalists the first chance to drive the new 500L.  “We want to grow, but we want to be smart about it.”


First Drive: 2014 Fiat 500L

Big things come in small packages.

by on Jun.17, 2013

Fiat Lands its Second Model, the 500L.

After a painfully slow start, Fiat has gained significant market momentum in recent months as it has delivered a growing range of new products to its U.S. showrooms, including the new 500e battery-electric vehicle.

But there’s only so far you can go no matter how many variants you come up with off the same minicar platform and Fiat’s U.S. planners are well aware that the most common reason potential buyers turn elsewhere is because the 500 coupe is simply too small for the majority of buyers.

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No wonder, then, that the maker is investing so much time and effort into the launch of the 2014 Fiat 500L, the all-new people-mover that is just beginning to roll into American showrooms – or “studios” as the Italian automaker prefers to call them.


New 500L Part of a Trio of New Fiat Models Debuting in LA

Abarth Convertible and battery-based Fiat 500e also make debuts.

by on Nov.28, 2012

Fiat's near 5-seater, the 500L has about 40% more interior space than the original 500 Coupe.

Fiat officials like to point out that it took years for their closest competitor, Mini, to expand its vehicle line-up and firmly establish itself in the American market.  After a painfully slow start, the Italian maker is kicking its product program into high gear and hopes sales will quickly keep pace.

This week’s LA Auto Show will, in fact, see the debut of four new Fiat models and model variants large and small.  Well, make that small, and not quite so small, as the maker plans to stick with the mini- and microcar segments.

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“We’re launching some significant things in California,” promises Fiat’s U.S. brand boss Tim Kuniskis, vehicles which could be especially important in the Sunshine State market – currently Fiat’s largest, representing nearly one of every eight products it sells in the U.S.


Fiat 500L to Offer World’s First Built-In Espresso Maker

When coffee cupholders just aren’t enough.

by on Jul.16, 2012

The new Fiat 500L will offer a built-in espresso maker - in Europe, anyway.

These days, almost every car on the road is likely to offer a couple cupholders.  But that means you still have to brew up your own batch of java or stop at the local coffee shop on your way to work.  Not so when the new Fiat 500L hits the road in October.

The European version, at least, will include what the Italian maker is billing as “the first standard-production car in the world to offer a true espresso coffee machine.”’

It probably should come as no surprise that Fiat would offer the option considering Italy’s intense love of a bitter shot of espresso.  No word whether it will make cappuccino, as well, however.

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The maker is “perfectly integrated” into the center console, the maker explains and was developed for the 500L by Italy’s largest coffee chain, Lavazza.  It uses single-shot cartridges that minimize the hassle and avoid the risk of dumping coffee grounds all over the car.


First Look: Fiat 500X

Maker set to add CUV as third model.

by on Jul.06, 2012

Fiat has offered a first look at what is expected to be the third model line in its growing U.S. line-up, a small crossover it is calling the 500X.

The unveiling came as a surprise to journalists who had been invited to Turin, Italy for the formal launch of the Fiat 500L, a 5-door hatchback that the maker plans to bring to the U.S. in 2013.  Fiat officials had previously hinted that another product was coming but refused to reveal details until lifting the covers in Turin on a silver concept vehicle.

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Tim Kuniskis, who took over as Fiat’s second U.S. brand boss last year, following a disastrously slow debut of the Italian brand, has told on several occasions that there would be more products coming – but he has also emphasized that Fiat will remain focused on small vehicles in the B-car segment.

Beyond that, Fiat officials had little to say about the 500X prototype they revealed in Turin.  But it is expected to be powered by several versions of the Italian makers MultiAir engine family – starting with a 0.9-liter turbocharged version for the European market that makes 104 hp, and a 84 hp 1.3-liter turbodiesel.  An American version of the crossover would likely share the turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir gas engine producing 101 hp, as well as the 160-hp version now offered in the Fiat 500 Abarth edition.

Reports from Europe suggest the 500X will measure about 13 feet, nose-to-tail, and that the new model will feature optional all-wheel-drive, much like the similarly sized Mini Countryman.

The 500X is expected to follow the 500L into production for Europe later this year, then follow the 4-door to the U.S. market in 2013.

It is expected to help Fiat not only expand its appeal but to specifically target the popular Mini brand.  That British marque has steadily expanded its own range of offerings and this week announced it will add a seventh product line, the Mini Paceman, next year.

(For more on the Paceman announcement, Click Here.)

Fiat currently offers a range of variants of the brand’s smallest model, the 500, including a standard coupe, a convertible and that higher-performance Abarth edition.

The Abarth has proved highly popular since making its American debut in mid-spring.  Fiat has had to advise dealers it will no longer take orders for the 2012 model.  It is planning to boost capacity for the 2013 model-year.

Abarth’s added momentum has helped Fiat’s U.S. dealers generate overall sales 20,706 units for the first half of 2012 – more than the brand sold in all of 2011.  The maker had originally forecast volume closer to 50,000 for that first year on the market, a number it now could hit this year.


Brands, Not Cars, Key Contends Fiat/Chrysler Exec

Have we heard this song before?

by on Mar.15, 2012

Fiat global brand chief Olivier Francois during the launch of the new 500L.

The idea that a car sells the brand doesn’t apply in the expansive world of Olivier Francois, Chrysler/Fiat’s chief marketing officer.

It’s the brand and its message that ultimately sells the car, Francois told the Automotive Press Association in Detroit. A lot of companies use cars to sell the brand but Francois has deliberately reversed the equation.

“The brand had better stand for something,” explained the French-born executive, noting he uses the exact same formula in Europe where he is in charge of the Fiat and Lancia marques.

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Francois also stressed that timing is critical. Chrysler’s celebrated Eminem ad, which was shown during the Super Bowl in February,2011, would not have worked a year earlier because there wasn’t any solid evidence yet of a Chrysler comeback. A year later it would have been considered “old news,” he added.


Fiat Pulls Cover off Stretched 500L

Is longer really better?

by on Mar.06, 2012

The new 500L is about 2 feet -- and 2 doors -- longer than the original Fiat 500.

“Bigger is better,” or so goes the classic American mantra, something that led to the gigantosauruses that once ruled U.S. highways.  Fiat, on the other hand, was one of a growing number of makers that opted for the idea that small is beautiful.

Or so it seemed with last year’s launch of the pint-sized Fiat 500.  The little Cinquecento has been going momentum in recent months, after a dreadful launch, but it’s probably no surprised that as they rewrite the brand strategy Fiat officials are also wondering whether bigger – at least a little bit bigger, anyway – might indeed be better.


They’ll soon find out, thanks to the Fiat 500L, the stretched version of the minicar that’s now on display at the Geneva Motor Show.  The stretch model adds “practicality and substance,” declared the Italian maker’s global brand chief Olivier Francois – which translates into two more doors and an extra two feet, nose-to-tail.


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.”


Fiat Releases First Images of 500L

Debut set for Geneva, U.S. sales to launch in 2013.

by on Feb.03, 2012

Fiat reveals the new 500L before its official Geneva Motor Show preview.

Following up on a report in earlier in the week, Fiat has confirmed it will unveil a larger version of its pint-sized Cinquecento at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

To be called the Fiat 500L, the 5-door hatchback will arrive in U.S. dealer showrooms in 2013, the maker confirmed.  The American version will be offered only in a 5-seat configuration, but buyers in Europe and other parts of the world will be able to order the new 500L in a 7-seat layout, as well.

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Short for “Large,” the 500L will still be one of the smallest models on U.S. roads, measuring just over 163 inches, nose-to-tail.  That’s about 2.5 inches more than the current Fiat 500 Coupe. And it still lands the new offering squarely into the B-, or minicar, category.