2008 Fiat 500
It's official: the Fiat 500--Europe's Car of the Year for 2008--is heading to the U.S., and it's bringing three of its cousins along for the ride.
At the launch of the Fiat 500C last week, designer Roberto Giolito confirmed that Italy's de facto national automobile will make its American debut in early 2011. As expected, the 500 will be built by the company's new American partner, Chrysler, though it's not entirely clear where vehicles will be manufactured. Factories in the U.S. and Toluca, Mexico are the most likely choices.
In addition to the standard Fiat 500 hatchback, Americans will be able to drive the 500C convertible, a 500 station wagon, and a sporty 500 hatch, created with Fiat's frequent partner, racecar manufacturer Abarth. A four-wheel-drive SUV is also rumored to be in development for the U.S. market, but there's no confirmation of that yet.
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne calls the Fiat 500 "our iPod", which is probably his way of saying that it's clever and cute and wildly popular with consumers (much like the inspiration for the original Fiat 500, the VW Beetle, when it was brought out of hibernation and updated). It'll be interesting to see how the 500's aesthetic jibes with Americans and a marketplace that is slowly attracting more and more minicars. How will it fare against the MINI? Or the Scion family, including the new Scion iQ, which should launch around the same time? Only time--and, perhaps, pricing--will tell.