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Auto Show : 2012 La Auto Show

FIAT Electric 500: LA Auto Show Preview

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer
  • FIAT electric 500 coming to LA
  • Fully electric, called 500E
  • Sales expected in mid-2013

FIAT is bringing an electric version of its subcompact 500 hatchback to this year's Los Angeles Auto Show. Dubbed the 500E, the new model is expected to be the star of FIAT's show display, which opens in late November.

While FIAT hasn't released many details about the 500E, we expect to see the small hatchback go on sale in the middle of 2013. Power will come from a fully electric, plug-in motor that will likely produce around 100 horsepower, while pricing will likely rival competitors. That means it will probably start in the low- or mid-$30,000 range, placing it above the fully electric Smart EV but below the Nissan LEAF in terms of cost.

Interestingly, FIAT CEO Sergio Marchionne has been less than enthusiastic about the 500E's debut. The CEO admitted earlier this year that FIAT is building the car solely to comply with strict new laws in California, and instead voiced his preference for ultra-efficient combustion engines. We're not sure if Marchionne's statement means the 500E will be offered only in California, but we expect the small hatchback's volumes to be limited, like many electric vehicles.

The 500E is expected to resemble the tiny 500 hatchback on which it's based. A concept version of the car, then dubbed the 500 Electric, was shown at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. That model had black wheels, a gray paint finish and an electric motor, though FIAT called it "just an exercise" at the time.

If the 500E goes on sale, it will enter a highly competitive market that's expanding quickly. In addition to the Smart EV and Nissan LEAF, other newly released small, electric hatchbacks include the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV and Chevrolet's plug-in hybrid Volt.

In addition to the 500E, journalists are speculating that FIAT will also show off a convertible version of its high-performance Abarth model in LA. Stay tuned to AutoTrader.com for updates, as we'll have more details on the latest FIAT models--and other LA debuts--as the show begins later this month.

What it means to you: If you're interested in combining EV technology with the FIAT 500's distinctive appearance, you won't have to wait much longer for the FIAT Electric 500.

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