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.
We Brake for News!
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 TheDetroitBureau.com 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.