Fiat May Bring Hotted up 500 to America

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TURIN, Italy — Fiat may export a sporty version of its new 500 minicar to the United States after 2010.

“We cannot exclude that our new 500 would go in some form to the U.S. market,” Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters.

Marchionne’s idea is to export the Abarth 500, the 120-hp sporty version of the car, company sources say. Fiat will launch the 500 this summer, reviving the iconic 1950s-vintage nameplate.

The 500 is a three-door, four-seat hatchback that is 139.7 inches long. Fiat will price the 500 as an upscale minicar to rival BMW’s Mini.

“The success of the Mini suggests there is a market for deliberately retro, nostalgic small cars, and that customers will pay a premium price,” said Max Warburton, auto analyst at UBS in London.

Fiat’s 500 minicar is a three-door, four-seat hatchback. The U.S. version will be priced to rival BMW’s Mini.
Early next year, Fiat will introduce the turbocharged Abarth 500 version. The Abarth 500 will be priced above $20,000 in Europe. It will not be badged as a Fiat.

Fiat likely would export small numbers of the vehicle to the United States to qualify for less restrictive federal standards. The Abarth 500 would be sold in metropolitan areas, mainly by Alfa Romeo dealers, sources say.

Fiat’s Alfa Romeo brand is expected to return to the United States in 2009. At the Geneva auto show in March, Fiat revived the Abarth brand with the Abarth Grande Punto small car.–Luca Ciferri, Automotive News