Fiat 500C to open up in NZ next year

June 22nd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat 500C fq

Fiat has announced more details of the open top version of the Fiat 500C, which is set to arrive in New Zealand in mid-2010, and brings with it a car that plays homage to the original 1957 open top 500, yet with greater safety, economy and lower emissions.

Starting from the hard top version of the Fiat 500, the introduction of the soft top does not change the winning character that has made it a success or its practical nature, such as its four comfortable seats and boot capacity, but it does add some new functions. These include easier access to the boot even when the soft top is fully open, thanks to a clever system of parallelogram hinges.

Another strong point of the original cabriolet version is its climate and acoustic comfort. Thorough aerodynamic research means that the turbulence experienced with the roof open has been reduced to a minimum.

A true object of design, the soft top of the Fiat 500C stands out for its electrically controlled movement and its impressively finished and carefully selected technical features, from the glass rear window to the third brake light built into the soft top itself. Available in three colours (ivory, red and black), the soft top is matched with various paint finishes.

The Fiat 500C retains the same dimensions as the base model (355 cm long, 165 cm wide and 149 cm high) and shares all three of its power units: the 55 kW 1.3-litre MultiJet turbodiesel engine combined with a five-speed manual gearbox and the 51 kW 1.2 litre and 74 kW 1.4 litre petrol engines, both available with manual or Dualogic robotised gearbox.

To confirm Fiat Automobiles’ commitment to environmental protection and sustainable mobility, the 500C includes an innovative “Start&Stop” system, which controls the temporary cutting out of the engine and its subsequent restarting. When the vehicle stops, putting the gear lever in neutral and releasing the clutch will switch off the engine; to restart, simply put the car back into gear.

Details of the versions to be sold in New Zealand, along with their prices and specifications, will be announced when the Fiat 500C arrives in New Zealand in mid 2010.

Does bankruptcy for Chrysler mean death for Viper?

May 6th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Viper SRT10 fq

With Chrysler officially bankrupt things are now looking more dire than ever for the iconic Dodge Viper. Chrysler has been looking to sell the Viper line for a while and several potential buyers were reportedly being considered, but months down the line no deal has been announced. Now, Chrysler has announced it will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy before restructuring in a new partnership with Fiat. But what’s to happen to the Viper?

According to recent reports from Detroit, Viper could face the axe, for real. Chrysler says it is still considering offers on the Viper line, but an early analysis of the company’s restructuring strategy suggests that the Viper is a financial liability for the company and will be dropped during the bankruptcy process. The Conner Avenue Assembly plant where 115 workers build the Viper is one of several earmarked for potential closure, along with many other Chrysler facilities. Fiat may not be too keen on keeping the Viper alive considering it’s a bad asset and Ferrari is a Fiat subsidiary.

It’s not only the Viper’s head on the chopping block with several trucks — including the Dodge Ram, Dakota and Jeep Wrangler facing the axe as Chrysler aims to streamline.

Fiat to make more acquisitions including Opel and Saab

May 5th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat logo

Fiat’s new alliance with Chrysler may only be the beginning for the Italian automaker. According recent reports coming out of the UK and Germany, the Fiat’s expansion plans aren’t limited to its 20% stake in Chrysler — Fiat is also considering acquiring General Motors’ European operations, including Opel, Vauxhall and Saab.

A new super-company would be formed that includes Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, along with Chrysler and GM Europe, into one corporate entity worth around $106 billion USD and would rival Volkswagen in being the world’s second largest automaker behind Toyota.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne spoke about the potential union, “From an engineering and industrial point of view, this is a marriage made in heaven” and with the full support of the automaker’s board, Marchionne hopes to have the deal completed this month, with shares of the new company temporarily dubbed Fiat/Opel — available in the coming months.

Marchionne believes that the alliance would make Fiat a stronger player in the global marketplace during the economic downturn and through merging Fiat and Opel’s B- and C-segment platforms, along with absorbing Opel’s larger D-platform and Fiat’s sub-compact A-segment offerings, could save around 1 billion euros each year.

German trade unions are throwing a spanner, citing concerns about job losses and factory closures, and according to the German magazine WirtschaftWoche, Fiat’s initial offer of $1.33 billion to acquire GM’s European operations was rejected.

Marchionne is scheduled to present Fiat’s plan to an assortment of German leaders this week. Check back for further updates.

Chrysler bankrupt – Fiat merger going ahead

May 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat logo

Chrysler is officially bankrupt but there is still hope for the flailing automaker. Chrysler’s bankruptcy process is being pushed forward quickly to eliminate the remaining obstacles between Chrysler’s and Fiat’s planned merger. American President Obama’s made a speech yesterday reflecting this path, confirming both that bankruptcy is the only way forward, and that his task force finds a joined Fiat-Chrysler alliance to be viable.

“Over the past month, seemingly insurmountable obstacles have been overcome,” the President said during his speech. “Chrysler and Fiat have formed a partnership that has a strong chance of success.”

The combination of Fiat’s alliance and a speedy bankruptcy means that sales won’t be interrupted. Warranty service will continue now with a guarantee by the U.S. government. The Treasury will also be lending Chrysler an additional $7.5 billion to help it negotiate the waters of bankruptcy.

Between $3-$3.5 billion will come in the form of ‘debtor-in-possesion’ (DIP) financing, and another $4.5 billion will come as ‘exit financing’ to enable Chrysler to continue operation post-bankruptcy. Fiat will only be able to take control of Chrysler after the $7.5-$8 billion in loans have been repaid.

The Fiat-Chrysler alliance could be worth more than $10 billion for the struggling Detroit company and could potentially save more than 5,000 North American manufacturing jobs.

“This partnership transforms Chrysler into a vibrant new company with a wealth of strategic advantages,” said Chrysler boss Bob Nardelli. “It enables us to better serve our customers and dealers with a broader and more competitive line-up of environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient high-quality vehicles. Benefits to the new company include access to exciting products that complement our current portfolio, technology cooperation and stronger global distribution.”

Fiat will initially hold a 20% ownership stake in Chrysler. Fiat will have the right to increase its ownership stake an additional 15% in three increments as it meets the following criteria: 5% for bringing a 40mpg vehicle platform to Chrysler to be domestically produced 5% for providing a fuel-efficient engine family to be made in the U.S. for use in Chrysler vehicles; and 5% for providing Chrysler access to its vast global distribution network to facilitate the export of Chrysler vehicles.

“To be sure, there will be many changes as we move forward to implement our plans,” said Nardelli. “But today, from many great parts, we begin to build a vibrant new company with less debt, a stronger balance sheet, richer product portfolio, supported by a well-positioned finance company.”

Renault to rebirth Gordini performance brand

March 9th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Renault Gordini

While it may seem like a bad time to bring back a performance marque, that’s just what Renault has planned according to a UK car magazine. Renault will relaunch the Gordini brand in Europe next year. It was recently revealed that Renault’s plans to bring back its storied Alpine product line had been axed, but the decades-dormant Gordini is apparently a different matter altogether.

The new range of hot hatches will slot in above current Renaultsport offerings, with a new Twingo variant reportedly being followed by Clio and Megane Coupe models. Like the Gordini-tuned cars of the past, the new models are tipped to wear blue paint and white stripes along with various performance upgrades that will make them a likely competitor to Fiat’s reborn Abarth lineup.

Rinspeed E2 – two personalities one Fiat 500

February 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Rinspeed E2 fq

Those crazy cats at Rinspeed have just created a dual-mode Fiat 500 Abarth that gets you more power and better fuel economy — just not at the same time. Rinspeed started with the 500 Abarth that has a standard 135 horsepower engine, and they’ve given it a new engine management system that has one mode for the city and one for the highway.

In ‘Commuting’ mode the 500 only has the use of up to 60 hp, which is forty fewer horses than the bog standard petrol 500, but you’ll be rewarded with almost 4L/100km. Press a button on the console to go to “Highway” mode and you get 160 hp, which is the same hp number for the 500 Abarth SS, but it costs you a tad of frugality at 7.1L/100km. There aren’t too many ways to make the popular Fiat 500 better, but Rinspeed may have found one.

Fiat releases first images of 500C

February 17th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat 500C rq

Fiat has just released the first images of the Fiat 500C. The Fiat 500C will have its public debut at the Geneva Auto Show next month and shares the same dimensions as the hardtop 500. The Fiat 500C will be powered by the same engines: 1.3 litre 75 hp MultiJet Turbodiesel coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission and two petrol units. The petrol versions of the Fiat 500C will come with either a 1.2 litre with 69 hp or a 1.4 litre with 100 hp. Those two versions will be available with both a manual and a robotised Dualogic transmission.

The Fiat 500C has been designed in Poland and comes with a retro sliding canvas roof that opens thanks to a parallelogram hinge system. This set-up means the 500C retains its roofline and arching C-pillar, which should keep its structural rigidity intact while keeping blind spots at bay. However, with the canvas roof retracted, it looks like rearward visibility is seriously compromised.

Check out the images in the gallery and check back for more updates from the upcoming Geneva Auto Show.

Australian Police use Fiat 500 squad cars

January 28th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat 500 Police Car fq

It’s hard to imagine Australian police without their full-size V8 cruisers, but one branch of the Australian Police Force, in Sydney’s Leichhardt, have gone to the absolute other extreme with a Fiat 500 JTD, the most economical car on the Australian market, now serving as a Police car.

But do not expect any highly economical police chases through the streets of Sydney. With New Zealand-born Constable Tui Ormsby at the wheel, the Fiat 500 Police car works to solve crime and stop road accidents before they happen by attracting attention to public education programmes run by the Police.

“When it comes to visibility, the Fiat 500 has proven to be an exceptional car, attracting attention and interest like no other car we have used,” said Superintendent Wayne Cox, the Leichhardt Local Area Commander. “With its primary role as providing a talking point from which we can discuss road safety and break down any barriers that may exist, the Fiat Bambino Police Car has attracted interest from all areas and all age groups.”

“Despite being marked up as a police vehicle, we don’t use the Fiat for normal police work,” said Supt Cox. “The Fiat is used for community policing, it’s a great way of building rapport between young people and police and certainly helps us get our safe driving messages through to car enthusiasts.”

“The Fiat frees up normal police cars so they can be out on the roads, not only helping to save lives but also helping to fight crime,” adds Supt Cox.