Monday 11 February 2008

FIAT 500 sold out (UK)

The United Kingdom had an initial allocation of 4,500 units when sales began two weeks ago, but already Fiat dealers are struggling to replenish stocks of the popular modern-retro car.

Originally, 16,000 units were planned for the UK but due to demand, it looks as if that figure could rise to 25,000 units annually. Fiat executives, who have hit the proverbial jackpot with the 500, can not wipe the smiles off their faces because of 500. The growing waiting list is evidence of this 500 madness that hasn’t been seen since the launch of the new MINI in 2001. So bad/good is the situation – depending on who’s asking – that certain buyers are taking advantage and seeing the investment opportunity presented by the shortage of cars.

They are offering their cars for sale on auction on websites like eBay, some at ridiculous prices because they know the waiting list is long and people with the cash aren’t willing to wait. Fiat South Africa is also saying better order your 500 tomorrow, otherwise you may have to wait until the end of July for delivery. One Fiat dealer claims he can’t believe the number of MINIs that park outside his dealership where owners want to check out the 500, which is priced at €1200 less than MINI.

The phenomenal success of the 500 comes at a time when the Fiat Group has recorded its largest ever trading profit – €3.2 billion based on a turnover of €59 billion – in its 2007 Annual Results. These figures are up 12.9 percent on 2006 with a 66 percent increase in trading profit, and the Automobiles sector almost doubled its profit over 2006, to €1.1 billion.

The 500 has won heaps of awards including Car Of The Year 2008 and the Gay Car Of 2008.

When the 500 came out on the 21st January, I immediately went to my local dealer to see the car myself. I was told a 6 - 12 weeks waiting list is in order after I ask about the demand.

As for the sportier models, they are likely to be powered by a 1.4 litre petrol engine developing around 155bhp & 180bhp for the Abarth which is due in late 2008 and 200bhp for the Abarth SS which is due early '09.

I sat in the 1.4 100bhp Sport model. I didn't really like the chrome exterior pack which chromes the door handles, parts of the front and rear bumpers, exhuast pipe and window line etc. The interior is surprisingly spacious for such a small car and headroom is great. Trunk room seemed fairly reasonable for a car this size but fold the rear seats and you'll have more space than you can handle. So, my mini verdict:

Pros - Spacious cabin especially with glass roof, great front head/leg room, fashionable and chic and funky interior

Cons - Rear headroom made me feel claustrophobic, rear legroom is poor and my knees dug into the driver’s seat and the centre console looks empty.

What else is in the pipeline? As I said above, 2 sports models are currently testing around Europe. The Abarth will take on the Mini Cooper S and the Abarth SS is currently class-less. A cabrio is due next year alongside a wagon which will rival the Mini Clubman. A wagon based SUV could even reach showroom in 2010 and the 500 itself should get facelifted aswell.

Related links:

FIAT 500 at 2008 F1 Grand Prix
FIAT 500 UK pricing
FIAT 500 production expands again
FIAT 500 crash test results
Private importers import FIAT 500 in UK
FIAT 500 production expands
FIAT 500 goes off-road
FIAT 500 Abarth expected in Tokyo
FIAT 500 goes on sale in France & Italy
FIAT 500 commercial shoot pictures

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