Why Fiat is Putting the Brakes on Fiat 500 Abarth Sales

By Joel Arellano | June 05, 2012
"Non piu" means no more in Italian, and that's what Fiat is saying to its dealerships ordering the Fiat Abarth 500, the upscale, sporty model of the Fiat 500 subcompact. Fiat's issue is something automakers dream of. The automaker, which recently returned to the U.S. after a 40-year absence, originally planned to build and sell roughly a thousand Fiat 500 Abarth subcompacts for model year 2012. But according to Fiat partner Chrysler, sales exploded over 400-percent just in the month of May alone. Chrysler's statement that "Dealers orders for the Abarth, the ultimate high-performance small car, exceeded the production run of this model for the 2012 model year" is a gross understatement. Fiat has upped Abarth production at its Toluca, Mexico automotive plant to its max of 3000 units, telling dealers it is no longer accepting wholesale orders for the subcompact. New buyers will now have to wait for the 2013 model. We've driven the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth and understand the high demand. Says Automotive.com's Associate Editor Trevor Dorchies: "The Abarth's clutch is much smoother in its engagement. While the normal 500 fumbles through the gears, the Abarth is quick to run through first gear while pushing you back in your seat. The throaty sound from dual-exhaust pipes is a note that's as unique as the car, with a sharp bark that echoes back to the earliest performance exhausts made by Abarth himself. There is a little bit of a drop-off in power as the Abarth enters second gear but power quickly returns once third gear is summoned. While the gas pedal vibrates ever-so-slightly when accelerating quickly the Abarth still delivers a fun ride, whether driving in a straight line, or maneuvering roads that bend every which way." Dorchies points out that the Abarth continues to be a livable daily driver, with comfortable seats and an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. Intellichoice, which studies automotive ownership, found the Fiat 500 Abarth quite expensive compared to other vehicles in its class, giving it a "Poor" rating after five years of ownership. On the other hand, the Fiat 500 Pop and Sport, which are the Abarth's more mundane siblings, faired considerably better with "Above Average" ratings versus others in the subcompact segment. Source: Detroit News
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