A couple of days ago a P-plate Alfa 145 appeared in the Autocar car park. I couldn’t help but have a good sniff around it to remind myself what a bizarre machine it was.
The bread van styling (said have been created under Chris Bangle’s tenure at Fiat…yes, that Bangle) hasn’t aged too badly, but memories of the inadequacy of early 1990s Fiat cars came flooding back. The clunky interior and switchgear, wide panel gaps, iffy gearshift and odd driving position. Even by the standards of the day, Fiat was behind the curve.
I’m glad the 145 was there, because I’d just finished listening in to Fiat Auto’s marathon investor conference. Fiat Auto boss Sergio Marchionne revealed an amazing level of detail of Fiat’s future plans, both in vehicles and technology, much of which I’m still picking through.
One thing stood out. The quality of Fiat’s current technology. It’s already well-ahead of the pack with the MultiAir valve control system and is about to launch a turbo-charge two-cylinder petrol engine and dual clutch ‘boxes. MultiAir has transformed the abilities of down-sized petrol engines and will soon clean much of the pollution out of diesel engines. (Never forget that Fiat invented direct injection for diesel engines and still regrets licensing the technology to Bosch).