There will be cars at the Melbourne International Motor Show claiming to be faster, some bigger, some more important, but none will be as cute, as small or wearing the 2008 European Car of the Year badge like the Fiat 500 which, after months of fevered anticipation, will make its Australian debut on 29 February 2008.
“Preparing for the arrival of the Fiat 500 in Australia is like being at the centre of whirlwind,” says David Stone, General Manager for Fiat Cars in Australia. “We have been under siege from dealers and customers alike, wanting to place orders and to be the first to have a Fiat 500. At the same time we have been working flat out to try and get additional supply for the Australian market and arranging for the Fiat 500 to make its world race track debut in Celebrity Challenge at the 2008 FORMULA 1™ ING Australian Grand Prix on 16 March, just days after the car is revealed at the Melbourne Motor Show.”
“But, at the same time is easy to understand why there is so much interest and excitement about the arrival of the new Fiat 500,” explains Mr Stone. “The original Fiat 500 was a phenomenon and remains so. It set the standard for small car design, proving that basic and low cost didn’t mean ugly and uninteresting. Indeed, as recently as two years ago the original 500 was voted the sexiest car of all time. A hard act to follow, but Fiat has pulled it off spectacularly. The new car is as cute as its forbear, as much fund to drive and as functional, yet at the same time it is a five star rated car for safety, it is one of the most environmentally friendly cars it is possible to own, and its price makes it available to all. There may be bigger and faster cars at Melbourne – but I believe the biggest crowds will be around the new Fiat 500!”
Fiat may be revealing the new Fiat 500 at the Melbourne International Motor Show, but it is, by no means the only new car from the Italian car maker. Also new on the Fiat stand will be the range-topping Fiat Ritmo, a stylish all-new five door hatch with two highly advanced engines, and the Fiat Punto T-Jet Turbo, which is the new performance benchmark in the Punto range, makes its Melbourne Show debut.
THE NEW FIAT 500
The original Fiat 500 was recently voted the sexist car of all time. The new Fiat 500 takes that original style, maintains the small car ability and adds modern technology and safety – it has a five star EuroNCAP rating, something some full-size cars can’t match – and engines made for the 21st Century to produce a car that, like its illustrious forebear, sets a new small car benchmark.
It is, therefore no wonder that it has praise, awards – headed by the European Car of the Year 2008 title – and sales demand in equal amounts.
To enable Australia 500 owners to fully avail themselves of the 500, Fiat Australia is providing the full range of engine and trim packages. This means a choice of three engines, two petrol and an advanced turbo diesel that will make – with a combined fuel economy of 4.2 litres/100 km – the 500 the most economical car available in Australia, beating even the hybrids, along with three different gearboxes.
Matched to this are three equipment packages, the bright and exciting ‘Pop’ level, the exciting ‘Sport’ package and the luxurious ‘Lounge’ equipment level. Added to this is the personalization programme that will make it possible for owners to make their 500 a reflection of their own personality, with a long list of factory and after market accessories.
There is even a car cover printed with a picture of the original 500!
The wide range of options and aftermarket features does not mean that the 500 is a basic car. All versions feature ABS brakes, AirCon, power windows, locks and steering, as well as a six speaker MP3 capable audio system and seven airbags. Given the high level of standard equipment and the advanced technology, the Fiat 500, with prices starting at a recommended retail price of $22,990, represents excellent value for money.
To enable prospective owners to choose their ideal Fiat 500, Fiat Australia has built a special 500 incubator – it is, after all, Fiat’s new baby – section on its web site (www.fiatcars.com.au) that guides owners through the many options and allows them to walk into their Fiat dealership with a ready made order form.
“There can be little doubt, given the demand we are already facing, that the new Fiat 500 will be the most sought-after car in 2008,” says David Stone. “Demand in Europe means that there will be little opportunity to expand our allocation, so anyone wanting a 500 in 2008 needs to visit our Melbourne Motor Stand, our website or their local Fiat dealer as soon as possible!”
It would be belittling to ‘limit’ the phenomenon of the new 500 to a simple, nostalgic reinterpretation, a pastiche of the original as done by some other car makers of their historic products. Fiat’s goal has not been to design a car that ‘looks like’ a 500, but one that ‘could be’ the 500 again. The new 500 opens the way for an innovative designs and technology in a number of areas that are very significant for today’s customers, clearly outlining where its ambitions lie in relation to the future positioning of the Fiat brand.
The Fiat 500, which is derived from the show car displayed at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show, respects the original concept in its shape and function, as a benchmark small car that meets all the practical requirements of a small car, yet at the same time has a unique and strong emotion pull on the heart strings.
On July 4, 2007 exactly 50 years after the launch of the original Fiat 500, the new car made its debut in Fiats home of Turin, revealing it to be a 3-door model with compact dimensions: just 355 centimetres long, 163 cm wide, 149 cm tall and with a wheelbase of 230 centimetres.
The 500 comes with a choice of three engines that guarantee sparkling performance but are sparing on fuel and eco-friendly, combined with 5 or 6 speed manual gearboxes and a Dualogic sequential robotised 5-speed gearbox. There are two petrol units, the 51 kW 1.2 and the 74 kW 1.4 from the ‘Fire’ family that boasts a total production output of more than ten million engines to date. The third is the 55 kW 1.3 16v Multijet Turbo Diesel with a particulate filter, which will make the Fiat 500 the most economical car on the Australian car market. These engines not only meet the existing Euro-4 environmental standard, they are designed to achieve the proposed Euro-5 standard.
Designed to respect the most stringent standards, the Fiat 500 is one of the safest cars in its entire segment. Stable, efficient braking combined with good acceleration from the engines and predictable handling at all times, get the new model out of difficult situations without batting an eyelid.
The Fiat 500 is fitted with seven airbags as standard equipment – two at the front, two curtain-bags, two sidebags and one to protect the knees – a record for this vehicle class.
ABS brakes with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) are fitted to all versions, with the 1.4 litre versions adding a sophisticated ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and ASR (Anti Slip Regulation), plus a Hill Holder, to help the driver on hill starts, and HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistance) which steps in for emergency stops.
The entry level trim level is ‘Pop’, which includes Air-Conditioning, trip computer, front electric windows, remote central locking, front and rear head rests, height adjustable steering wheel, split-fold rear seat, ABS brakes and six speaker MP3 Audio system with steering wheel controls.
The Sport model adds 15inch alloy wheels, Blue&Me Telematics with USB connection, rear spoiler, leather steering wheel and gearknob, side skirts and red brake calipers. Over the Pop version, the Lounge gains 15 inch alloys, satin finish aluminium exterior mirrors, chrome trim pack, climate control AirCon and a fixed glass sunroof.
The comprehensive options list includes leather trim, 16 inch alloy wheels, decal options, sunroof on Sport and Pop versions, luxury and chrome packs, as well as dealer-fit options that enable owners to further personalize their Fiat 500.
Prices start at a recommended retail price of $22,990 for the Fiat 500 Pop 1.2 and range through nine versions to the range topping Fiat 500 Lounge 1.4 Dualogic at an RRP of $29,990.
THE FIAT RITMO
The Ritmo is a strong entrant into the upper end of the increasingly important small car market sector, while the Fiat 500 which will arrive in March is, quite simply, the most sort-after new car to enter the Australian car market in 2008.
Initially Fiat will offer four versions of the Ritmo in Australia, with additional models to arrive in 2008, including self-shifting gearbox versions. The two trim and equipment levels, Emotion and Sport, are offered with a choice of the advanced 1.4 litre 110 kW T-Jet petrol engine and the 1.9 litre 110 kW JTD Turbo Diesel, with prices starting with a recommended retail price of $29,990 for the Fiat Ritmo Emotion T-Jet.
Augmenting an interior design founded on the fundamental pre-requisites of class-leading space, exemplary build quality, and visual and tactile sophistication, the new Fiat’s equipment specification has been carefully considered to simplify and enhance life on board. Interior trim is not just good to look at; it also provides a wonderful tactile experience, with different textures to delight on touch for interior trim and upholstery.
Both Emotion and Sport versions are fully equipped, offering electric windows and exterior mirrors, cruise control, power steering, remote central locking, an advanced audio system, AirCon, alloy wheels and a host of other features as standard.
As befits its name, the Sport adds comprehensive performance orientated equipment package, including rear spoiler; sideskirts; Climate Control AirCon; sports pedals; front sports seats with lumbar adjustment of driver’s seat; leather sports steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake knobs; sports upholstery, red brake callipers and 17” sports alloys with 225/45 tyres.
The Sport versions also come with the innovative Blue&Me integrated telematics system developed in a joint venture with Microsoft, which has proven so popular that more than 20 per cent of Fiat vehicles sold in Europe are now equipped with it. In simple terms, it offers hands-free system with Bluetooth™ technology with steering wheel controls, instrument panel with multifunction display, MP3 audio file player from a USB port and SMS text reader.
While right is fully endowed with Italian ‘brio’ and spirit, it is also supported by cutting edge design and development technology that ensures that its beauty is also more than matched by brains.
The new Ritmo, using a name derived from the Italian word for rhythm was created in just 18 months from design ‘freeze’ to production. To achieve this record-breaking development time, Fiat employed new, groundbreaking, state-of-the-art Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) systems of unprecedented power and complexity, allowing the development of this new hatchback to be undertaken almost entirely through virtual analysis and engineering.
So sophisticated is the computer software involved, that not only could Fiat’s engineers simulate every aspect of the Ritmo’s structural, dynamic, NVH and accommodation characteristics to a level of unprecedented detail, but they were also able to create a virtual production-line to ensure consistently outstanding component and build quality.
The benefits of these all-encompassing developments in virtual design and engineering are clearly evident in every aspect of the new Fiat Ritmo, from consistently high build quality and class-leading passenger accommodation, to superior driving dynamics, minimal NVH levels and, of course, outstanding safety provision.
The new Ritmo has been awarded a maximum 5-star rating for adult occupant protection in the gruelling Euro NCAP crash test programme.
Achieving 5 stars for adult occupant safety, 3 stars for child protection and a further 2 for pedestrian protection, the new Fiat recorded 33 points, placing it among the leaders of its category in terms of passive, active and preventive safety.
The 1.4 litre T-Jet 110 kW turbocharged petrol engine, makes its debut in the Ritmo. This is the second example of a new family of turbocharged petrol units developed by Fiat Powertrain Technologies to combine the sporting performance and low NVH characteristics of a petrol engine with fuel economy comparable to a diesel unit and CO2 emission levels which readily comply with increasingly stringent European regulation.
Through cubic capacity downsizing allied to the adoption of the smallest possible turbocharger, Fiat’s responsive new 110 kW 1.4 litre T-Jet engine combines performance equal to or better than a conventionally aspirated 1.8/2.0 litre petrol engine, but with a reduction of between 10% and 20% in fuel consumption and emissions.
The T-Jet engine offers an ‘overboost’ button located on the centre console in Sport versions, will deliver an impressive 230 Nm at 3000 rpm, endowing the Ritmo with a 0-100 kmh acceleration time of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 208 kmh. Notwithstanding such lively performance, this superbly responsive powerplant will still return 7.1 l/100 km in the combined cycle and restrict CO2 emissions to just 167 g/km.
The 110 kW 1.9 litre MultiJet unit in the new Ritmo boasts an impressive 305 Nm torque delivered at just 2000 rpm, allowing acceleration from 0-100 kmh in just 9.0 seconds and a top speed of 209 kmh, whilst returning a fuel consumption of less than 5.6 litres in the combined cycle.
With a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating to its name, the new Fiat Ritmo builds on an already impressive safety portfolio with the full range of braking, traction control and stability systems available on the market today: ABS anti-lock brakes, complete with electronic brakeforce distribution, ASR to limit wheel spin during acceleration, MSR to modulate engine brake torque whilst changing down, and a sophisticated ESP to control vehicle stability through bends, which includes hydraulic brake assistance and a Hill Holder function to facilitate smooth hill starts.
“The new Fiat 500 not withstanding, the Fiat Ritmo is probably the most important car that Fiat will launch this year,” says David Stone. “It launches Fiat into a key market sector, one which not just contains some of the key models in the market as a whole, but also which, as the market downsizes in response to environment issues and fuel prices, is becoming a market more important Australian market sector. The Fiat Ritmo has the abilities to take on the key players in the market and its Italian soul will offer car buyers a car that is fresh, vital and dynamic, while being backed by state of the art safety, reliability and durability. We believe it makes a compelling case and represents one of the strongest models in its category.”
THE FIAT PUNTO T-JET TURBO
The fastest version of the Fiat Punto has arrived in Australia with the launch of the turbocharged T-Jet version of Fiat’s top-selling small car, boasting a 0-100 kmh time of just 8.9 seconds; yet, at the same time the highly efficient new engine also endows the Punto with a combined fuel figure of a modest 6.6 litres per 100 kmh.
“The new Fiat 1.4 litre T-Jet really is the engine of the future,” says David Stone, General Manager for Fiat cars in Australia. “Normally a performance car needs a significantly larger engine to gain a high performance output. Punto Turbo Sport, the already highly efficient 1.4 gains a turbocharger to produce power and torque levels the equivalent of a 2.0 litre engine. As a result, the Punto Turbo Sport is not only one of the quickest sub-$30,000 hot hatches, it is also one of the most economical.”
The new engine is a light pressure turbocharged version of the 1.4 litre Star-Jet engined that arrived at the launch of the Fiat Punto. The low inertia turbo lifts power from 57 to 88 kW and torque from 115 to 206 Nm, with an amazing 200 NM available from just 1700 rpm and more than four seconds is cut from the 0-100 kmh acceleration time. But, at the same time, with an average fuel consumption of 6.6 l/100 km and carbon dioxide figure of 155 g/km, the Punto is cleaner and more economical than its key rivals.
Despite these large increases in power and torque, the weight increase is very low, benefiting not just performance and fuel consumption, but also handling and road holding as the Punto T-Jet maintains the weight balance of a small-engined car.
The first in new range of compact, 1.4 litre turbocharged engines that deliver the power, torque and performance of much larger engines, the advanced design provides instant response and excellent in-gear performance across the range. Thus the 8.9 second 0-100 kmh time is representative not just of excellent through the gear performance, the new engine also offers strong responsive performance in every gear at low engine speeds.
The Punto Turbo slots in into the middle of the range, with the same Sport equipment and trim package as the range topping diesel-powered Punto Sport 1.9 JTD. This means it is comprehensively well equipped in all areas. Like all Puntos it is five star EuroNCAP rated and has ABS brakes with ESP stability control, ASR/MSR and Hill Holder and follow-me-home lights for personal security. Immediately identifiable from the outside, the Punto Sport has 17 inch alloy wheels, colour matched spoilers and side skirts and a chrome finish on its exhaust pipe.
Inside there are sports seats trimmed with sports upholstery, sports instrument panel, a leather trimmed sports steering wheel and gear knob. Equipment includes power steering, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control, air conditioning and remote central locking with remote boot release. The Sport package also includes sports suspension for sharp, responsive cornering to go with the responsive new engine.
“With the arrival of the T-Jet Turbo, the Punto range now offers one of the most complete and varied choice of small car power plants,” says David Stone. “Each power unit offers it own blend of performance, economy and purchase price to offer buyers of small cars the ability to tailor a Punto to their own particular budget and motoring needs, knowing that which ever Punto they buy, they will own a car with benchmark safety, superb good looks and a small car that has something only a Fiat can offer – Italian Soul!”
The new Fiat Punto Sport T-Jet has a recommended retail price of $25,990.
FIAT – PROFITABLE AND DEBT-FREE
The Fiat Group has recorded its largest ever trading profit in its 2007 Annual Results, with a trading profit of Euro 3.2 billion based on a turnover of Euro 59 billion, up 12.9 per cent on 2006 with a 66 per cent increase in trading profit and the Automobiles sector almost doubling its profit over 2006 to Euro 1.1 billion.
The Fiat Group has also announced that it has extinguished its net industrial debt in 2007.
With sales of 2.234 million vehicles, Fiat achieved its highest ever sales since 2000, generating revenues of Euro 26.8 billion, up 13.1 per cent.
Fiat Group Automobiles – Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia – almost tripled its trading profit to Euro 803 million compared to 2006, lifting the return on sales from 1.2 per cent to 3.0 per cent.
Maserati and Ferrari contributed another Euro 290 million in trading profit.
Driven by the success of the GranTurismo and the Quattroporte, Maserati recorded a profit for the first time since its acquisition by Fiat, transforming a Euro 33 million loss in 2006 to Euro 24 million trading profit in 2007, with a 33.7 per cent increase in net revenues over the year and a 45 per cent increase in the final quarter. Maserati sales rose by 30.7 per cent to 7496 units.
Ferrari deliveries rose by 11.1 per cent to 6584 and the world’s leading supercar maker reported a profit of Euro 266 million, up 45.4 per cent.
Fiat light commercial vehicles lifted its sales by 19.9 per cent around the world, driven by the success of the new Fiat Ducato and Scudo.
Driven by the success of existing models and two key new models to be launched in 2008, the Fiat Group plans to lift vehicle sales by another 200,000 in 2008.
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