2010 LA Auto Show: Photo Gallery, 2012 Fiat 500 Launch

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The 2012 Fiat 500 minicar is the first all-new car to be sold as part of Fiat's takeover of Chrysler.

It's also a very cool and stylish little vehicle that won numerous awards in its first year on the market ... and it's the kind of car conventional wisdom says will never, ever sell in the U.S.

Nonetheless, a newly confident Fiat USA launched the car at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, bringing on Laura Soave, head of Fiat North America, to show (even before the car itself) a photo of herself as a child standing on her Italian grandparents' original 500.

The message? The Fiat 500 is a car that's about passion, a car that buyers will fall in love with. But--hewing to today's market realities--they will do so for rational reasons (downsizing, practicality, economics) as well as the tug of the heart.

The 500 marks the return of the Fiat nameplate to the U.S. after an ignominious retreat more two decades ago, and its sales through newly designated Fiat dealers from within the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership body will be closely watched.

We'll have full details of the car--including its three trim levels, named Sport, Pop, and Lounge--shortly. Meanwhile, we hope these photos will transport you to the press launch and give you a first look at the undeniably stylish 2012 Fiat 500.

There are, we should point out, many more models to come, among them the Abarth performance version, the 500C Cabriolet with roll-back cloth roof, a larger four-door model developed exclusively for the North American market, even an all-electric version.

Imagine yourself in the Los Angeles Convention Center, and feast your eyes on the 2012 Fiat 500.

Then tell us what you think of the car--would you buy one?--in the Comments section below.

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Comments (9)
  1. I've already placed my order for the Prima Edizione model! I've driven them in Europe where they won Car of the Year awards and I can't wait to drive this sporty, fuel efficient(think 45mpg) car on my commute in the US. Fiat has been up to some great things in other parts of the world that Americans haven't seen. Welcome back Fiat!

  2. To discribe the present partnership between Chrysler and Fiat as a "takeover" is inaccurate and misleading.
    The Fiat 500 you see here is manufactured by Chrysler,with an American manufactured engine, yes based on a Fiat design, but with Chrysler's modifications for our market. Based on an improved and unique platform, built initally for "American expectations" this Fiat is truly a joint product of Chrysler and Fiat.
    In addition, in the near future, Chrysler based vehicles will be going to Europe with Alfa Romero and Lancia badges providing jobs for American workers and profits for Chrysler. The Alfa,Lancia,and Fiat based vehicles destined for North America will be totally re-designed and re-engineered by Chrysler for the domestic market. Few, if any customers will be able to realize the source of the platform, except for the cutting edge Fiat technology it will carry such as "multi-air" and adaptive suspension,now being lauded in Europe as state of the art.
    To work, this arrangement between Chrysler and Fiat must be respectful and semi-autonomous with both contributing to the product line. That is what the 500 reflects and the future products being developed on both sides of the Atlantic will transform the international automotive marketplace. This is just the first fruit of that marriage.

  3. @Bill: (1 of 2) From the volume of your pro-Chrysler comments on this and many other websites, I presume you're a Chrysler employee or dealer?
    I understand that Fiat does not, yet, own a controlling interest in Chrysler. Assuming all goes well, they seem likely to achieve that goal. Chrysler will then IPO and, as I understand it, when that happens, Fiat will control a majority of the shares in the newly-public Chrysler.
    Perhaps "handover" would be a better description? After all, Fiat was the only serious volunteer to take on the bankrupt and unviable old Chrysler.

  4. @Bill (2 of 2): In a later article, I will lay out the modifications Fiat says were made to the 500. They are certainly material, but the fact remains that this is a Fiat vehicle, using a Fiat engine, that has been somewhat modified to launch under the Fiat name in North America, regardless of where it and its engine happen to be built.
    To say the North American 500 platform is "unique" seems odd. My understanding is that it is a minor adaptation (or evolution) of the Euro-500 platform.
    I'm aware that future Chrysler products will be re-badged and/or redesigned to become Alfas and Lancias, while Alfas and Fiats for North America will be modified and restyled from shared platforms.
    Those vehicles will be truly co-developed cars that would not otherwise exist. The 500, on the other hand, is adapted from a car sold in Europe since 2007. That makes it different to those vehicles.
    If this is not the case, please drop me a note and we can discuss in more detail.

  5. It certainly looks like they've dropped the unusual auto-transmission shift in the US version; I hope that extends to the kangaroo-drive auto-manual gearbox which despite it's efficiency I'd have to pass on.

  6. I'm a bimmer driver, and I like chevy muscle as well, and have a general distaste for front wheel drive cars, especially little micro cars, though I dont hate the mini (I'd just never want to own or drive one)
    But even I want to test drive this little guy, it looks like a fun little car.

  7. Fiat 500 was my first car in Italy,it looked like a can of sardines that one opens rolling the top. Hope this new one is bigger and should go for less.

  8. And when will we get the small diesel that Europe gets to really be able to be excited about the fuel efficiency numbers?

  9. It will be a hard sell to people of my age who remember the shoddy days of old with Fiats in this country. They were the original "Yugo". The stories of Fiat workers sabotaging their cars as they rolled down the assembly lines were actually humorous.

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