The Italian Almanac

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Fiat 500

An American Debut

The Fiat 500 will make its American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The 2008 Car of the Year for European journalists is a retro city car named after the Fiat classic which was produced from 1957 to 1977. The cars to be sold on the North American market are being made at a Chrysler plant in Mexico and they will be called the 'Cinquecento', the spelled out Italian word for 500. The 'Cinquecento' marks Fiat's return to the American markets after 27 years.

The Fiat 500 made its debut in Turin in 2007 and has become an icon for the Italian automaker as well as a major breadwinner. So far half a million of the cars have been sold in 80 countries. The first US edition, for which there is already a waiting list, will see the Cinquecento in a standard version and in three basic colors: white, red and gray. Next a convertible model will be launched on the American market and in 2012 a electric version.

Fiat will initially produce between 100,000 and 130 of the cars a year, half for the North American market and the other half for Latin America where Fiat is a top-selling marque. While the cars are produced in Mexico, the motors for the Cinquecento are made in Chrysler's plant in Dundee, Michigan. After the Cinquecento Fiat plans to re-introduce the Alfa Romeo to the American market.

Aside from being named Car of the Year in 2008, the Fiat 500 also won the Most Beautiful Car on the Web 2008 award at the second edition of the Infomotori Web Award and was elected Sexiest Car of the Year by evecars.com, the British car-buying website for women, which also chose the Italian carmaker for the best advertising campaign.