The US version of the high-performance Fiat 500 Abarth has been unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show. Fiat’s US partner Chrysler will be hoping the ‘hot’ version will bolster the sales fortunes of its A-segment offering in the US when it goes on sale next March.
Not just a bodykit and badges special, the 500 Abarth has seen extensive modification over the standard car. The 500 Abarth has a turbocharged, twin-intercooled 1.4-litre MultiAir engine that delivers about 158bhp at 5500rpm and 170lb ft at 2500-4000rpm and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The steering rack is ten per cent quicker than a standard Fiat 500.
Exterior styling includes a rear splitter and new nose section that is 2.7inches longer than the standard. The interior gets high-backed seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, a turbo boost gauge and gearshift indicator.
Chrysler Group, through its partnership with Fiat, has not sold as many examples of the Fiat 500 as it hoped, with sales up to October only just surpassing 20,000 – some way short of the 50,000 forecasted by Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne when deliveries began in March of this year.
Lower-than-expected sales have impacted on the production of the car. The 500 is built in Mexico, but the engines are constructed in Michigan, where Chrysler recently halted production of powerplants for the car to bring the supply more in line with current levels of demand. No date has been given for the resumption of production.
In addition, Chrysler has unveiled plans to expand its Fiat 500 dealer network during the early part of 2012 in a bid to boost sales. In the region of 20 more dealerships will be opened, bringing the total across the USA to about 150.
Fiat claims the North American version of the 500 has racked up four million development miles and a further two million for the Abarth variant.