Word war over vehicle looks erupts between Nissan and Fiat

Article by Anita Panait, on December 6, 2012

A word war has been set off between carmakers Nissan and Fiat over the design, styling and looks of their own models. The clash was prompted by a veiled remark by Matt Davis, head of Fiat product marketing, over Nissan’s Leaf electric vehicle. Davis told Bloomberg News that “ugliness is probably one of the worst forms of pollution."

Davis made the remark before Fiat unveiled its Fiat 500e all-electric vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month. He then quipped that the Fiat 500e proves that one does have to sacrifice good looks just to deliver an electric car. Davis’ remarks managed to get an unsolicited response from Nissan.

The Japanese carmaker’s head of global marketing communications, Simon Sproule, responded by saying that Fiat’s vehicles are the ones guilty of “visual pollution.” He told Automotive News that Fiat has not “shied away from controversial styling themselves."

He cited the Fiat Doblo as an example of a Fiat product that could be described as “visual pollution.” Sproule remarked that unlike the Fiat 500e, the Nissan Leaf is a "fully functioning" car for families and daily use. He quipped that it was insincere for Fiat to criticize Nissan's EV efforts, which entailed spending billions of dollars on EV assembly plants and charging infrastructure, when the Italian carmaker is simply offering a similar vehicle to appease regulators.

Fiat is offering an electric version of its Fiat 500 minicar in the United States to comply with California emissions requirements. The Italian carmaker expects to lose $10,000 on each Fiat 500e it sells. According to Sproule, Fiat chose the smallest vehicle in its range with the least amount of passenger functionality, noting that the Italian company does not have the credibility or the hardware to stand behind their statements.

Topics: nissan, fiat

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