LA Auto Show: Will The Fiat 500 Draw Luxe Buyers in America?
Fiat is not a luxury brand in Europe and South America where its vehicles are primarily sold. And neither has MINI been a luxury brand. But just as MINI has created a small-car premium category that has attracted many luxury car owners, Fiat is hoping to draw the same customers with its 500 model, which will go on sale in the U.S. starting in January.
The 500 has been on display at previous U.S. auto shows, but it was in Los Angeles, that the automaker unveiled the final version. It is slightly different than the model Fiat already sells in Europe, with changes made to the front end and rear-end to comply with U.S. safety standards.
With a starting price of $15,500, the 500 can hardly be called "luxe." But the car, which will go on sale in about 130 Chrysler Group LLC dealerships across the country, is only about $500 less to start than the BMW Mini Cooper.
But just as options and accessorizing can drive a MINI Cooper price up well above $20,000, even close to $30,000, Fiat is hoping the 500 has cachet enough to attract people who will pay up to personalize it.
Pricing for the 500 starts at $15,500 for the base model, which is referred to as the Fiat 500 Pop. The 500 Sport is priced at $17,500 and the top-shelf 500 Lounge will cost you $19,500.
Gallery: Fiat 500 for USA
The 500 is powered by a 1.4 liter, 16-valve engine that generates 94 horsepower.
Customers can choose from 14 color exteriors and 14 seat combinations. Most of the customization will be handled at the Mexico plant where the car is built alongside the Dodge Journey. It will take between 30 and 45 days for a customer to receive their car once they place an order.
The vehicle will primarily be sold in urban centers such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. "The car is an expression of their individuality," said Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne about why he expects Americans to buy the 500. "It's an icon. Why do people buy iPads or iPhones? They can buy any phone. This is designed to sell in a select size of the market and there is room in that market." Luxist sister website Autoblog specified a 500 ounge whose sticker reached almost $26,000.
At the Fiat website, visitors can go to the 500 Configurator to specifiy their own.