29 March 2011

FIAT 500: Many Modifications for US Market

As most of you likely are aware, American regulations differ substantially from the EU's standards for emissions, safety, and myriad details of automobiles sold in their respective markets.
In addition, consumer tastes/preferences diverge on a number of decision points in the design process between the US and The Continent...

With the FIAT 500 now arriving in US showrooms, here's a fairly comprehensive list of changes FIAT had to make in short-order to bring the diminutive retro hatchback to the North American  (NAFTA) markets as rapidly as they did:
Fascias: European license plates are considerably wider and narrower than plates in the United States. The Nafta 500’s front and rear fascias were modified for American plate proportions. 

Additionally, the United States market also has a more aggressive looking package for the Sport model, which gets its own front fascia. Pop and Lounge model fascias are more similar to other global 500 market offerings.

Front Seat: American engineers felt that European Union 500s were hampered by a clumsy front seat; it took too many steps to move the front seats out of the way to allow passengers to get into the back seat. The new mechanism allows for easier, smoother operation. European markets also feature handsome seats that were deemed too small for North American backsides. American seats provide more support. Additionally, Nafta front seats have an armrest; European seats do not.

Cup Holders: Nafta 500’s have a spot for a Big Gulp. European cars don’t.

Steering Wheel: It includes cruise control buttons in Nafta 500s. There are no such buttons on European cars.

Radio: European-spec radios tune to even decimals, making them useless to North American listeners tuning in odd-decimal channels. While the European and Nafta radio control units (called “heads”) look similar, their internals use different programming. There is a USB port in the glovebox to connect MP3 players on Nafta 500s , but because European models don’t have a glovebox, the USB port is in the console.

A-Pillar: Trim The A-Pillars are what engineers call the vertical posts holding the windshield in place. Interior trim pieces cover the pillars. Because of differences in crash standards, Nafta 500s use a different shape pillar trim than European models.

Air Bags: Side-curtain air bags in the Nafta 500 extend protection rearward to the second row. European side bags do not.

Exterior- Rearview Mirrors: The European Union allows for the use of convex exterior mirror reflectors on both sides of the car. The United States doesn’t. American regulations also require an “Objects in the Mirror...” decal.

Windshield Wipers: United States regulations require a greater total swept area for wipers. Nafta wiper blades are longer than their European counterparts.

Insulation: To meet customer expectations regarding overall quality, the Nafta 500 uses more insulation than what is in 500s sold in other markets. That means the North American cars are the quietest 500s on the planet.

All-Season Tires: Nafta 500s feature tires with an all-season compound. The change reflects moving to a more capable tire that delivers better grip across all of North America’s climate zones.

Air-Conditioning: Another recognition of Nafta’s climate is the 500’s retooled and more capable air-conditioning system.

Transmission: Until now, the 500 was not available with a conventional automatic transmission. For the car to be a success in the United States, Fiat officials thought their car needed something better than the automated manual gearbox offered as an option in Europe. The Nafta 500 offers a 6-speed automatic that is based on a transmission available in the Mini Cooper.

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