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

Article by Christian A., 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.

The Abarth brand tradition is fully conveyed through the aggressive styling of the new Fiat 500C Abarth, which features a number of purposeful and intentional elements that don’t just enhance its clean and simple design language, but also help improve its performance.

To enhance both the car’s aerodynamics and the compartment room to accommodate the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine, the Fiat 500C Abarth boasts of a more pronounced front fascia. For increased levels of air intake, the signature "Abarth" shield is made to float on a finned surface. In addition, the three inlets on the large intake below now have broader openings than on the Fiat 500C. The twin "nostrils" are now placed on the front fascia to optimize airflow to and from the two intercoolers, which are visible through the nostril inlets.

The new the Fiat 500C Abarth now sports an athletic profile thanks to the Abarth-designed side skirts as well as to the 16-inch -- or optional 17-inch -- lightweight forged-aluminum wheels elegantly filling the flared wheel arches.

On the rear, the roofline is extended by an Abarth-designed cloth-top-mounted spoiler, which also helps generate more downforce. The car also comes with a two-piece Abarth-styled rear fascia that helps highlight the Fiat 500C Abarth’s road-holding stance while optimizes airflow through its rear diffuser. The rear look of the Fiat 500C Abarth is completed by large concentric "double-tip" exhausts.

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