Fiat cars

Abarth is celebrating the launch of the new high-performance 500 and 595 ranges on the UK market with the launch of a special 595 Turismo edition. The model is priced at £17,725 ($21,798 at current rates) when based on the 500 version and at £19,625 ($24,125 at the current rates) when based on the 500C version.

The new 595 Turismo will be distinguished by Titanium Grey front and rear sports grilles, upgraded front and rear dampers, and dark tinted rear windows. For the interior, the model gets a "Turismo" pack that includes Alutex pedals, footrest and door kick-plates, bespoke floor mats, and machined aluminum fuel and oil filler caps. Leather upholstery and automatic climate control will also be offered as standard equipment, while, as an option, Abarth will provide a very cool set of 17-inch 10-spoke Diamond finish alloy wheels combined with red brake calipers.

The Fiat 595 Abarth Turismo is powered by a turbocharged 1.4 T-Jet engine that delivers a total of 160 HP and mated to either a manual gearbox or with Abarth’s MTA (Manual Transmission Automated) semi-automatic gearbox.

Say what you will about his pop-culture shows, but when it comes to reviewing cars, Jay Leno knows what’s going on. In his series, “Jay Leno’s Garage ,” we have seen numerous cars come in and out, but the Fiat 500 Abarth is one of the few cars to come into his garage that Jay hasn’t had the chance to drive yet.

Jay finally caught up with Fiat and snagged up a 500 Abarth, despite their very short supply, to test drive. Jay did what we all would do the second he got behind the wheel of this high-performance compact hatchback... He pushed it as hard as it would go.

You know what, the 500 Abarth took everything Jay threw at it and it just kept asking for more. We are quick to rag on the 500 lineup, mostly because Fiat has consistently added new models based on the exact same car, but this Abarth Abarth model is not one that is deserving of the taunting we give the lineup. It truly is a sports car in a compact car’s body.

At one point, Jay decides it’s time to pull a U-turn. Instead of coming to a complete stop, then slowly turning around, Jay quickly yanks up the E-brake, whips the car around, then smolders the tires as he takes off in the other direction. That was quite simply the marque moment in this video.

Man, it sure is good to be Jay Leno! Check out the video to see for yourself.

Fiat is celebrating the 500 ’s 5th anniversary with the unveiling of two very cool Happy Birthday editions, offered for both coupe and convertible versions. The two versions will be limited to only 555 units and will be priced from €12,900 ($15,900 at the current exchange rates) for the coupe model and €15,400 ($19,000 at the current rates) for the cabrio version.

The new 500 and 500C Happy Birthday editions will be distinguished by elements like vintage-style wheel covers, a white finish for the door mirrors and roof antenna, and a bespoke key fob. Fiat will also be offering a new exclusive Cappuccino beige exterior color.

Fiat is offering air conditioning, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, electric windows, chrome trim, and an MP3 / CD-Radio as standard.

The new Happy Birthday editions will be offered with a choice of two engines: a 1.2-liter four-cylinder with 68 HP and a 0.9-liter turbocharged two-cylinder TwinAir that delivers a total of 84 HP.

Ever since crossovers became a hot thing in the early-2000s, seemingly every car manufacturer has taken the leap into the nearly full crossover pool. The newest market is the compact crossover market, which is just getting started. Fiat has decided that it’s going to get into this side of the pool early on with a 500-based crossover.

This new crossover, which is set to debut in Europe next year, will add to the growing 500 lineup, which currently includes the 500, 500C, 500L and the 500 Abarth. This new vehicle, which the consensus says will be dubbed the 500X, will feature three different engines, Fiat’s two-cylinder turbocharged TwinAir engine, a 1.4-liter and a 1.3-liter turbo-diesel, and will be based on the 500L’s chassis.

If this model makes it to the U.S. – nothing is concrete on a U.S. release yet – it will have stiff competition from the MINI Countryman and a slew of new arrivals. No renditions or teaser images have been released yet, so we are all stuck using our imaginations. I seem to picture something similar to the Suzuki X-90 – one of my top-10 cool, yet ugly, cars – but with a hatch.

We honestly do understand Fiat’s slow-moving tactics here, but buyers are soon going to grow tired of the 500 model. Making subtle changes to an existing model to build buyer interest is a safe bet at first, but eventually buyers will start wondering what’s next and lose interest altogether. It has only been a year since Fiat’s return to the U.S., but it might be time to start considering moving more models to the U.S.

Then again, Fiat is on a slippery slope, as it is also trying to keep Chrysler’s head above water while trying to reintroduce its brand to the U.S. So let’s cut them some slack, for now…

Updated 07/04/2012: During the official debut of the new 500L, Fiat has also dropped some teaser images and a video on the upcoming 500X that will go on sale sometime in 2014. Hit he jump for the video. (Omniauto)

We are pretty open in letting you know that we have had it about up to *here* with the “new” 500 models that Fiat continuously releases. So oftentimes when we see a new 500 model we just continue on without stopping. They are typically unexciting and only add a slight difference from the original 500. It’s like getting rainbow sprinkles on strawberry ice cream instead of red sprinkles; they are the same sugary flavor, just a different color.

Well, when we came across the latest rendition of the 500, which is actually a custom build by Lazzarini Design, it was more like they dipped the ice cream in chocolate – you know, the cool stuff that hardens on the ice cream – added peanuts, then strapped a big nasty V-8 engine to the ice cream cone!

Yeah, it’s that freaking cool, but is this Fiat 550 Italia by Lazzarini Design realistic?

Click past the jump to read our full review on this custom Fiat 550 Italia.

When Fiat announced that it would release the 500 Abarth in Chrysler dealerships across the U.S., they initially built just 1,000 examples. Yeah, that wasn’t enough, as the preliminary orders alone exceeded 1,000 units, so Fiat upped the number to 3,000 units. It looks like that wasn’t quite enough either, as Chrysler has shut off the ordering system for 2012 500 Abarths due to the factory in Mexico not being able to handle any more orders for this model year.

According to The Detroit News, there are still some Abarths in dealerships around the country sitting around as demos or cancelled orders. So this means that you may still be able to snag up a 2012 model, but it won’t be built to your requests. You would have to settle for what it comes with straight from the dealership’s floor.

Per Fiat’s website, there are zero 500 Abarths available throughout the country, but old faithful AutoTrader shows us that there are 205 listed on its site from all around the country. We wouldn’t be shocked if the majority of those are just baited hooks, in order to get a customer in so the dealer can say “Aw, we just sold that this morning, but we can take a deposit on a 2013 model.” If you have worked at a dealership before, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

If you are patient, you can just wait until September to order up a new custom fitted 500 Abarth, so there is no need to accept a model that doesn’t meet your needs. Just make sure you get in early to beat the rush that we all expect there to be for this model year.

We often talk about how mergers and shared productions have really made the automotive world do a complete 180 in recent years. A great example of this is back in the late-1980s when Ferrari and Maserati were direct competitors and no one could have ever imagined that in 1999, Ferrari would have complete ownership of Maserati. Then, Maserati ended up being split between Alfa Romeo and Ferrari in 2005.

What would be good for a barrel of laughs would be to travel to the mid-1980s and tell Enzo Ferrari that in 2012 his company would be manufacturing a pair of engines for Maserati . Well, all irony aside, that is exactly what’s happening, but also included in this €50 million ($62 million) production deal are Alfa Romeo and Lancia . All four of these models are under the only ownership umbrella that rivals Volkswagen AG, Fiat S.p.A., which is what allows them to share information without fear of losing sales to one another.

The first engine to hit the market will likely be a twin-turbo V-6 powerhouse that will crank out up to 450 ponies. The second engine to come from this development sharing will be a naturally aspirated (non-turbo) V-8 model that will likely crest the 500-horsepower mark. Alfa Romeo has had plans for a replacement for its sports sedan, the 159, but a proper engine hasn’t been developed for it yet. These engines would certainly fit the need and give it a whopping 200- to 300-horsepower increase over the 2011 159’s 3.2-liter V-6.

For Lancia, we really can’t see a model that these engines are suited for, as Lancia currently only has a rebadged Chrysler 200 in its lineup. Maserati can slap either of these engines in any of its cars and it would look right at home, as long as all “Ferrari Ferrari ” badges are stripped. Then again, the automotive world could pay back Maserati by forcing it to slap a “by Ferrari” tag on it like the 1989 through 1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati that we all know and “love.”

We’ll keep you updated on this as more information becomes available.

Alfa Romeo Spider

Last week, we reported that Fiat was open to allowing Mazda to use U.S.-based Chrysler factories to manufacture U.S.-bound Mazda models. Before that, Fiat and Mazda officially announced a partnership in building the MX5 Miata and Alfa Romeo Spider . These two announcements brought about a lot of speculation of Fiat taking the same approach that Ford did, by buying into the struggling, but slowly recovering, Mazda.

After hearing plenty of these rumors, Fiat Chairman, John Elkann, had enough and announced at a shareholder meeting that Fiat is not interested in acquiring any percentage of Mazda Mazda in the future. Fiat does plan on adding a Japanese partner in the future to help expand its global reach, but there is no mention of what companies Fiat is considering.

We would not be surprised to find out that this is simply a rouge to not tip its hand too early. It only makes sense for the two to partner up in a larger sense, as Mazda needs some help getting over the recovery hump and Fiat needs a Japanese partner. It would be a win-win situation, so we’ll see if Fiat’s tune changes after testing out Mazda’s abilities with the Mazda Miata-Alfa Romeo Spider production deal.

Fiat is planning a little bit of expansion soon though. In July 2012, Fiat is planning to expand its ownership in Chrysler by an additional 3 percent, bringing its total ownership to over 60 percent. Over the course of time, Fiat plans to jump its overall Chrysler ownership to 100 percent, giving it complete control over the recovering automaker’s operations and profit.

It definitely looks like Fiat is on the right track here so far. We will keep you updated as its expansion continues.

Mazda MX-5

Just a few days ago, we reported that Mazda and Fiat have joined forces to jointly produce a new sports car based on the upcoming redesigned MX-5 Miata . Fiat would use this opportunity to revive the once popular Alfa Romeo Spider, the car whose shoes the MX-5 filled back in 1990. This could not only revive the Spider overseas, but it could also bring Alfa Romeo back into the U.S. market at a reasonable price.

Recently, at a Chrysler event, a reporter from Reuters learned that this relationship may go even further than simply jointly manufacturing a sports car. The report states that Fiat Fiat is also open to allowing Mazda to use Chrysler plants to manufacture their North America-bound cars. This would obviously help Mazda Mazda a great deal, as importing cars from Japan to North American countries is extremely expensive and drives up the cars’ MSRPs, which in turn drives customers out of dealerships.

There is nothing official, but we could see something like the Ford-Mazda partnership that started in 1979 and effectively ended in 2010. This would result in various joint-ventures between Fiat , Chrysler , Alfa Romeo , and Mazda , making the group one that rivals Volkswagen Auto Group, though a tad less luxurious and expensive. The advancements across the board, however, would be similar.

After some tough times, Mazda finally saw some gains in 2011, as its market share increased 9 percent that year, but it needs more to remain afloat. Mazda should see some additional increases over the next few year regardless, as the RX-8 , which was down 33 percent in 2011, is being discontinued and the Miata, which was down 11 percent, is being significantly redesigned. A little added boost from a production-cost sharing venture with Fiat and Chrysler could do nothing but help all three rebounding brands and reinvent Alfa Romeo in the U.S.

Source: Reuters

Collaborative efforts aren’t anything new in the car world. Companies have been borrowing bits and pieces from each other for years, but lately it seems as though full blown projects are being split between companies to develop almost identical vehicles. Take Subaru and Toyota , for example. They joined forces to develop the new GT 86 /BRZ sports car that carry identical parts with different maker flares. Now Fiat and Mazda are jumping on board the team builder wagon to produce a new small roadster based on Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 rear-wheel-drive architecture.

The two companies will have to develop two differentiated, distinctly styled roadsters and each variant will be powered by specific proprietary engines unique to each brand. Both models will be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima, Japan, plant with production for Alfa Romeo envisaged starting in 2015.

"Establishing technology and product development alliances is one of Mazda’s corporate objectives and this announcement with Fiat is an important first step in that direction. It is especially exciting to be collaborating with such a prestigious marque as Alfa Romeo on a new roadster based on the next-generation MX-5, which is such an iconic vehicle for Mazda and recognized as the best-selling roadster of all time." said Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda’s Representative Director and Chairman of the Board, President and CEO.

"This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand. By partnering with Mazda Mazda , we will be co-operating with the recognized leader in compact rear-drive vehicle architectures in order to deliver an exciting and stylish roadster in the Alfa Romeo tradition. We are appreciative of this collaboration with Mazda and look forward to maintaining a fruitful and continuous relationship." said Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne.

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