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Fiat recalls nearly 30,000 Fiat 500L models

Wed, 30 Jul 2014

Fiat has announced a recall of 29,500 Fiat 500L hatchbacks in the US and Canadian markets due to concerns that the roomiest member of the Fiat range features knee airbags that won't deploy unless the occupant's seatbelt is fastened.
There have been no injuries reported due to this issue, which affects vehicles from model years 2014 and 2015. Of the nearly 30,000 vehicles covered in this recall, 25,500 come from the US market, while the remaining 4,000 are from Canada. It's not clear what the underlying cause of this issue is.
Fiat knows of no injuries relating to this problem. As per usual, owners will be notified and asked to report in for a free repair.

Fiat hangs ten with surf-inspired 500L Vans concept

Sat, 26 Jul 2014

Fiat is all set to ride some waves with its new 500L Vans Concept debuting at the Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA, on July 26. Inspired by the famous shoe company known to skaters and surfers the world over, the hatchback is packed with seaside style and is ready to show it off at the beach.
The first thing that jumps out about the concept is its grille. It's unlike any other 500L and sports four rings of LED driving lights that are open in the centers. "We added the circular LED DRLs to add a sense of purpose and adventure to this concept," said a Fiat spokesperson to Autoblog via email. Below them are two more foglights, and combined together they should be able keep a party going long into the night after a day of surfing.
Beyond a ton of lighting, the Vans Concept has some extra panache thanks to its three-tone color scheme. It starts with dark blue outlining the car along the bottom, white for the main portion of the body and a lighter shade of blue for the hood, mirror caps and tops of the doors. The roof gets the shoe company's' traditional checkerboard pattern, and there's a rack up there to hold two surfboards and extra gear.

VW, Fiat deny merger talks

Thu, 17 Jul 2014

All parties involved are actively denying a potentially Earth-shattering shakeup in the automotive universe, as a German business publication claimed that Volkswagen and Fiat have been discussing the possibility of a merger.
The magazine, Manager Magazin, claimed that Fiat was looking to ditch its volume automotive business in order to focus even more heavily on Ferrari, according to Automotive News Europe. The report claims that the merger would allow Chrysler to help bolster the Volkswagen brand in the United States.
Not surprisingly, Volkswagen, Fiat and the Agnelli family (which owns a 30-percent stake in FCA) have all denied this report. VW has said it's focusing on efficiency within its own group, and isn't looking at any takeover plans, according to AN. The Agnelli family, meanwhile, has also denied talks, while Fiat officials say are unaware of any talks.

Ram to go on a Rampage with new small pickup?

Wed, 16 Jul 2014

When people look back at today's automotive industry, what do you think they'll remember us for? The emergence of hybrids? Ever more expensive and exotic supercars? The dawn of the self-driving car? All likely scenarios, but so is the blurring of lines between one bodystyle and another, giving rise to hardtop convertible coupes and crossovers of every shape and size. But one bodystyle the North American auto industry has stayed largely away from in the past couple of decades is a car nose and chassis with a pickup bed.
It's a bodystyle immortalized by the Chevrolet El Camino, but with few exceptions, we haven't seen too many of these automotive platypuses in recent years on our turf. Subaru tried with the Baja and the low-volume Honda Ridgeline soldiers along largely unchanged, but the genre's biggest adherents are still Down Under, where ute versions of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon live. With a few other examples scattered to the four corners of the earth, that's really about it. But if these spy shots are anything to go by, it looks like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could be working to bring it back.
Spied undergoing testing in Michigan, what we appear to be looking at is a heavily disguised Fiat Strada being prepared - like the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster and the smaller Doblo-based ProMaster City - for Stateside duty as a Ram product. The Strada, for those unfamiliar, is a product of Fiat Automóveis in Brazil and is based on the Palio economy car. The nameplate has been around South America since 1996 and was originally designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (long before Volkswagen monopolized his talents), and takes a more rugged approach in the form of the Strada Adventure.

Fiat turns to Funny or Die with new Italian-centric video spots

Wed, 09 Jul 2014

The web video might be the sitcom of the modern age as the main way people consume comedy. Even if you don't want to sit down and watch a TV show, you can dedicate just a few minutes for a laugh from a brief film. Fiat found huge success last year with its Backseat Italians ad for the 500L on Funny or Die, with over 1.6 million views as of this writing. So the Italian automaker is playing on its country's stereotypes again in a new online series called Neighbors.
The concept behind the videos is super-simple. An attractive Italian couple with their Fiat 500L moves in next door to a stereotypical suburban family and hilarity ensues. Most of the shorts play up humorous misunderstandings in translation like with the phrase "When in Rome..." So far, the best of the bunch is probably Express Lane to Trouble about what happens when you drink too much espresso. If you like what you see, there are still two more episodes on the way soon.
Scroll down to watch all five current videos. They're only a few minutes long and should at least provide a good chuckle. You can also read Fiat's press release about the stunt, below.

Street Glory Mappers turning cars into dynamic billboards like this

Fri, 04 Jul 2014

A French marketing firm with the impenetrable name of Street Glory Mappers is literally turning cars into billboards. Of course, we've all seen vehicles painted up for promotional use, but this company is taking that concept even further by including video.
Street Glory Mappers equips the vehicles with a large video screen behind the windshield to play whatever is being advertised. According to the company's promo, it may even be possibly to sync up the vehicle's lights with the show, as well. The firm claims that it's a great form of temporary, mobile marketing because the car can arrive at the location, play the video and then go away when the prospective audience leaves.
While it doesn't necessarily seem any more effective than other forms of advertising, the firm's idea is at least unobtrusive. After all, it's easier to ignore a stationary car than a person handing out flyers. However, vehicle flashing its lights and playing video could certainly distract other drivers.

How Fiat explains its disastrous J.D. Power quality scores

Wed, 02 Jul 2014

Back in the '60s and '70s, Fiat didn't exactly have an enviable reputation for quality. Of course, lack of quality and a tarnished brand reputation eventually saw the Italian automaker flee the market, only to return with the 500 and the larger 500L in the last few years. However, if J.D. Power's Initial Quality Survey for 2014 is to be believed, modern Fiat products haven't improved quite as much as we might have hoped. Fiat thinks that there is a very simple explanation for its poor performance on the annual list, though.
J.D. Power's IQS looks at flaws among autos in the first 90 days that customers own their new vehicles. In 2014, Fiat wasn't only dead last, it was at the back of the pack by a significant margin. The company's cars tallied 206 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) compared to a national average of 116 PP100. Even Jeep, the survey's second-to-last finisher, had 146 PP100. Fiat's performance was pitiful.
However, it can all be explained, at least according to US Fiat boss, Jason Stoicevich, who spoke with Ward's Auto. He qualifies the results by stating that the survey came at a particularly bad time for the brand. It produced very few 2014 500 models to allow extra time to introduce the updated 2015 version. That meant that about 91 percent of its vehicles surveyed were examples of the 500L, "which is a new car where there are always quirks to work through," said Stoicevich to Ward's. With only one model providing data, it skewed the results. Of course, that's all well and good, but it suggests that the larger 500L is even more problematic than the overall brand's 206 problems per 100 vehicles.

2015 Fiat 500 Abarth automatic targets broader appeal

Tue, 24 Jun 2014

There aren't many manual-transmission-only offerings on the US market, and now there's one fewer. The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth has just gone into production with a newly available automatic option.
We've known that the hair-raising, high-performance Cinquecento has been scheduled to get a two-pedal setup for some time, but now we have more specifics on the gearbox itself. According to Fiat, the six-speed automatic is derived from the same Aisin unit used in the standard 500, but it's been substantially reengineered to cope with the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo engine's added power. Allison Singer, a vehicle integration engineer on the 500 Abarth's development program tells Autoblog that the modifications to the gearbox include "gears that have been reinforced and a few extra clutch plates," among other changes. Unfortunately, there are no paddle shifters, as the 500's steering wheel was not designed to accommodate them, but at least there's a +/- manual gate on the gearshift lever.
Interestingly, the automatic brings with it substantially different power numbers than its manual counterpart. The new model receives 157 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque, which is 3 horsepower less than the manual, yet it packs a whopping 13 pound-feet more torque, which should aid drivability. By comparison, the five-speed manual 2015 Abarth registers 160 hp and up to 170 lb-ft. New features that come with the auto include a dedicated sport mode, rev-matched downshifts, fuel-cut upshifts, shift logic that holds gears in corners and 'fast-off' situations, along with sharper throttle tuning. Despite the added torque, Singer admits that "The manual will probably be a tiny bit quicker as far as performance goes," but she is confident that the transmission's availability will open the car up to a much broader market of buyers.

Fiat GIF-based ads make our heads spin

Tue, 17 Jun 2014

Take a good, long look at the image above. Don't worry, it's completely real; you're not hallucinating. Would you believe that's an actual screencap from an actual ad commissioned by Fiat that's airing on actual television? Believe it.
The commercials started as a series of animated GIFs from The Richards Group for Fiat's Tumblr page, according to Adweek. Chrysler's Chief Marketing Officer reportedly liked them enough that he had them cut into ads for TV. The result is a combination of Internet meme heaven that includes the above horse mask and "Deal with it," animation, experimental filmmaking, cats, a person in a bunny suit twerking on a Fiat 500 and more general bizarreness.
Whatever your opinion on them, you have to admit that the advertising is certainly attention grabbing. Imagine looking up at the TV form your tablet to catch a glimpse of this weirdness. If you don't like them, Fiat is even giving people the chance to do a better job. Its Tumblr is open to submissions of new GIFs, which could lead to some very inappropriate and potentially hilarious results given the way that the Internet often works.

Fiat board makes Chrysler merger official, approves $5.4B bond sale

Mon, 16 Jun 2014

Fiat's board of directors has officially approved the merger plan that will see the conglomerate's automotive operations merged with Chrysler into the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The plan essentially provides a road map for the structure of the new company. It includes provisions for Fiat shareholders - one Fiat share will translate to one share of FCA common stock. The new company will also include a loyalty voting structure, which will provide for shareholders of Fiat stock or those that have held FCA stock for at least three years. According to the plan, these shareholders would see their voting power double, with two votes for every share of FCA's common stock. The overall merger plan still needs to be approved by the company's shareholders.
In other Fiat-related news, the company's board has announced a bond issuance of four billion euro ($5.4 billion). The new bonds should provide the company with a degree of flexibility in refinancing debts associated with the merger plan.