PLANT

Chrysler looks to boost Fiat sales with new 500s

Automaker introduces electric and 4-door version of its stylish compact.


DETROIT—The Fiat 500 is getting bigger and going electric.

Two new versions of the Italian-styled mini-car are appearing at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week: the “500e” is the brand’s first all-electric model in the US, while the “500” comes with four doors and significantly more room than a regular model.

The first 500 hit US showrooms two years ago, promising a stylish and fuel-efficient remake of the 1950s original. Since then, at least four variations of the remake have rolled out.

The 500’s expanding lineup mimics the successful strategy of another tiny car, BMW’s Mini Cooper. The German automaker has broadened the niche car’s appeal by offering spins-offs that target more tastes and lifestyles. The 500 also has tried that, offering convertible, luxury and high-performance variations.

The 500 needs to boost its allure in the US, where sales remain pint-sized compared with the rest of the world. Fiat has produced more than 1 million 500s worldwide since the car’s global launch in 2007, but acceptance has been slow in the US, where just over 36,000 500s have been sold through October.

The 500e has a lithium-ion battery that powers a 111-hp electric motor and can travel up to 130 kilometres on a single charge. The battery is recharged in less than four hours via a 240-volt charging station. The 500e will get the equivalent of 187 kilometres per gallon of gasoline in the city and 160 kilometres per gallon on the highway, Chrysler says.

The 500L will have a 160-horsepower 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Gas mileage estimates haven’t been confirmed.

Prices for both models have yet to be announced.

For the time being, however, Fiat is only introducing the electric and 4-door models into the Californian market. It faces plenty of competiton from the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Ford focus electric models.

©The Canadian Press