Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

Fiat 500 Abarth Gets Automatic Transmission To Woo Female Shoppers

Follow Richard

The launch of the Fiat 500 didn't go as smoothly as some had hoped.

First, Chrysler dealers had to build special showrooms for the new model, since CEO Sergio Marchionne didn't want Fiats sold alongside other Chrysler brands. That slowed the rollout process.

Then came the ads, featuring spokesmodel Jennifer Lopez. They raised brand awareness to be sure, but some of us found them a little confusing.

Add all that up, and you had a recipe for less than stellar sales.

A DELICATE BALANCE

Despite those missteps, recent reports indicate that Fiat's situation has improved. The base 500 is selling well, as are its Cabrio and performance-oriented Abarth cousins.

That's due to some smart product development on Fiat's part. As the brand's North American president, Tim Kuniskis, tells WardsAuto, Fiat's U.S. sales are fairly evenly split between women and men. Here, 45% of Fiat buyers are women -- a far cry from Europe, where women account for a whopping 75% of small car purchases. (Even in America, some smaller cars rely heavily on female buyers.)  

But not all Fiat products play equally well with men and women. While many female shoppers are attracted to the base 500 and the Cabrio, men account for 80% of Abarth sales.

The balance that Fiat has achieved is pretty remarkable, but can Marchionne & Co. sustain it?

CURVES IN THE ROAD

Fiat will soon bring the 500L to the U.S. -- a car that has elsewhere been pitched to moms. The Abarth Cabrio will also debut in the next few weeks, and it, too, will be targeted heavily to female shoppers, since convertibles have a history of faring well with women.

Now comes word that Fiat is planning an automatic transmission for Abarth models, and that, according to Kuniskis, is going to bring significantly more female buyers to the performance model. (Note: although many women of our acquaintance are a-okay with stick-shifts, automatic transmissions were initially pitched as "simpler" options for female drivers. That sexist way of thinking took hold in pop culture and never really let go.) 

The question then becomes: will Fiat's new products tip the scales entirely toward women? Apart from the Abarth model, what is Fiat doing to keep male shoppers in the fold?

Women: we'd love to know your feelings on automatic vs. manual transmissions -- and convertibles, too. Men: we'd be interested to hear about which, if any of the Fiat models appeal to you. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[h/t Joel Feder]

====
Visit our redesigned used cars section today -- over 2 million live classified listings for sale:  Used TrucksUsed SUVsUsed ToyotasUsed Fords and more. 

Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (15)
  1. The automatic won't be just for women. How about for men too, possibly those with left leg issues that prevent them from clutching. Now I can consider the Abarth!
     
    Post Reply
    +2
    Bad stuff?

     
  2. If you are a disabled person and pressing the clutch pedal is difficult or impossible for you, it would not be practical to have such a small car, as getting in and out would pose a challenge, in which case I argue you need a bigger vehicle.

    So, automatic in a FIAT 500 makes no sense whichever way one slices and dices it.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. I would be mostly interested in the Abarth, especially a black one like Charlie Sheen endorses. It has more get up and go and has better handling due to a stiffer suspension; not as sporting as one would find on the mini, but better than the base suspension. I like the 500L; more utility, but unmistakably a Fiat.
     
    Post Reply
    +2
    Bad stuff?

  4. My wife has never driven anything but a stick shift. And never will. We're currently shopping to replace her 328i and the pickin's get fewer every year. Sad.
     
    Post Reply
    +2
    Bad stuff?

  5. The only automatic I have ever been comfortable with was a Ferrari--and that's a bit out of my price range! (And I can't afford the requisite oil refinery and airport runway so as to fully enjoy it!)
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  6. The association of women and automatic transmission is a little disturbing to me. Makes women seem less capable of performing simple arm leg coordination tasks and also not up to enjoying driving cars. If true, it would be pathetic.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

     
  7. Unfortunately, that's how automatics were originally pitched -- as simpler options "for the little wifey". Remember that talking Barbie doll in the early 1990s that said stuff like "Math is hard?" The stereotypes endure, and to a degree, they've become ingrained.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  8. I honestly don't understand why anyone would ever consider a Fiat 500 over, say, a Ford Fiesta, or even a Hyundai Accent.
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

     
  9. Because the FIAT is a modern 21st century technology, and has an advanced power train, that is why.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  10. I love the Abarth but my wife does not want a stick. A great compromise would be getting her a auto Abarth and then I can steal it from her all the time. I would take this car over a Mini Cooper Auto.
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

  11. I would have already bought the abarth but i dont want a stick plus i would share it with my daughter. Kids today have enough distractions that sdding a stick to her driving is just to much.
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

  12. I have the 500Abarth,and this car is awesome.This car want to run at Audis,BMW,M -Benz,my care hates Audis especially,may be it has to do with the fact that Audi want to but Alfa Romeo it's cousin.I have 2 upgrades so far,and it makes a big difference to the original car,now I am adding a larger inter cooler and turbo to pis on those stupid Audis.
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

  13. "Men: we'd be interested to hear about which, if any of the Fiat models appeal to you. Share your thoughts in the comments below."

    Abarth. And although I think it is remarkable that FIAT managed to squeeze 160 horsepower out of such a small engine, I am not buying an Abarth until it comes in the high performance clean diesel version. And with a manual transmission, of course.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  14. Lady here. I own a Fiat 500 (base model) with a manual transmission...not only is it cheaper, but you typically get better mileage and have more control over a car with manual transmissions. I would suggest anyone shy of learning how to drive manual to try out the Fiat! I had learned on a big clunky car (hills were a nightmare) and it's night and day...not to mention that the Fiat has a hill feature that keeps you from rolling back for 3 seconds. It drives very smooth and I love it!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  15. My manual Abarth is just AWESOME.I love this car,I drive it more than my Maserati Grand Sport or my Range Rover Sport.I average 80 MPH and still get 25 MPG.Just awesome.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Try My Showroom
Save cars, write notes, and comparison shop with hi-res photos.
Add your first car
Advertisement
Take Us With You!
   
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
Advertisement

 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.