Automatic gearbox on Fiat 500 Abarth seen to attract more buyers in US

Article by Andrew Christian, on July 1, 2014

Jason Stoicevich, head of the Fiat brand in North America, is confident that an optional automatic gearbox for the Fiat 500 Abarth would attract more customers. He remarked that Abarth’s sales in the US surged 16 percent so far this year, despite offering only a manual transmission.

He said that those who don’t buy the Abarth usually bemoan the lack of an automatic transmission. “That was the only reason for rejection,” Stoicevich said. Chrysler Group started producing Fiat 500 Abarths fitted with six-speed Aisin automatic transmissions this month in Mexico.

Matt Davis, chief of marketing for the Fiat brand in North America, quipped that Abarths with automatic gearbox are expected to be rolled out to Fiat’s US dealers in July. Davis said that the automatic transmission opens up a “breadth of opportunity for millennials and Gen Xers” who don’t know how to drive a manual or prefer an automatic.

Davis noted that around half of the segment in which the Abarth competes in is made up of automatic transmission vehicles. While the new Aisin gearbox leads to lesser power for the Abarth (to 157 hp from 160 hp) but higher torque (plus 8 percent).

The Sport mode, meanwhile, enables the driver to experience a manual transmission without the clutch.

Davis said that Fiat added some characteristics of the vehicle that would react just like it had a manual transmission like fuel-cut upshifts, rev-matching downshifts, brake-assist downshifts, corner gear hold and fast-off gear hold. He remarked that the automatic Abarth would have a $1,250-premium over the manual one.

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