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The Feel of a Fiat 500

August 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Auto


Fiat 500Since the turn of the 20th century, one car company has been at the forefront of the Italian automotive industry; a manufacturer at the grassroots of Italian car racing; the enterprise that brought the Lancia name to fame; the brand that tamed Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, and pulled Chrysler from the abyss of bankruptcy. An acronym for “Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino,” that brand is Fiat, and with the Fiat 500 once again rolling onto North American asphalt, Canadians can finally grip the wheel of this revived iconic ride.

“The car was made to really appeal to the public, and that’s what it did,” says Remo Ferri, president of The Remo Ferri Group of Automobiles, regarding the original Fiat 500 that launched in 1957. “And of course, the car made so much history, in movies and so on, that it became part of the Italian style in life … It’s part of the Italian heritage.”

Originally founded on July 11, 1899, Fiat opened its first factory in 1900 in Corso Dante in Turin. Employing 150 workers and producing 24 cars its first year, Fiat wasn’t just laying the foundation for the Italian automotive industry, but paving the way for Italian racing, winning the Sassi-Superga uphill race in 1902 with the first genuine race car, the 24 HP, driven by Vincenzo Lancia.

In 1908, Fiat expanded, bringing its slanted ‘A’ logo across the Atlantic and into the U.S. market. However, after decades in the New World, a sullied reputation of persistent breakdowns caused Fiat to throw it in reverse and backed out of the American market in 1983. But in 2004, Sergio Marchionne took the wheel as Fiat’s new CEO, giving the brand a contemporary tune-up.

Marchionne’s new direction combined state-of-the-art technologies with Italy’s chic styling, once again winning over consumers. It also saw the resurrection of the small yet practical Fiat 500 in 2007. Traffic jams of enthusiastic drivers swarmed towards the new 500, as over 500,000 were sold in a three-year span – even before cracking the North American market. Like a tailored Italian suit, the little 1.4-Litre seemed to perfectly fit modern motoring markets.

The Remo Ferri Group of Automobiles obtained its first 2012 Fiat 500s in March, and customers raced to the lot. “There’s lots of women, men, younger people, older people, we see all sorts of people,” says Ferri, who keeps a restored 1960 500 in his dealership’s showroom. “It appeals to a lot of people.”

“It gives a lot of bang for the buck,” says Marco Pasquariello, who has already purchased three of the 2012 500s. “A great style as well. A lot of cars look too everydayish, where as this car looks retroactive like the old car, but functional like a new car.”

Pasquariello feels it’s a great city car, economical on petrol and fun to drive. “You can get around the city pretty quick and you conserve a lot of gas,” he says. Indeed, according to JATO Dynamics, an international information supplier on vehicle specifications and news, in 2010 Fiat ranked No. 1 in lowest average automobile emissions for a manufacturer for the second straight year. The 500 reportedly gets 55 m.p.g. highway driving and 42 in the city.

For Joe Marchese, a longtime Fiat owner, the new styling is certainly a thing to behold. “It’s a beautiful car,” says the Fiat 500 Lounge owner. “It’s got beautiful handling and it’s very, very well designed.”

A Compasso d’Oro Industrial Design award winner, the 2012 500 is a car meant to be seen in, easily standing out on North American streets. Its unique, fashion-forward interior is busy yet clean, and it’s unmistakable exterior styling screams vintage Italian.


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