• FIAT Custom Shop offers graphics, body kits.
  • Drivers can create a custom FIAT 500.
  • The options list will grow to 150 parts.

A new FIAT program will allow for advanced customization of the brand's subcompact 500 hatchback. Dubbed FIAT Custom Shop and unveiled at the recent SEMA show in Las Vegas, the program will let FIAT owners and prospective buyers personalize their vehicles using a menu found at dealerships.

According to FIAT, the Custom Shop was created in conjunction with Chrysler's Mopar parts division. By allowing drivers to choose accessories when they order a new 500, previously aftermarket options can be rolled into the car's monthly payments. That means buyers don't have to pay for them all at once, which will likely lead to increased accessory sales.

The other main benefit to FIAT Custom Shop is that aftermarket accessories ordered with the program will be covered under the brand's four-year, 50,000-mile comprehensive warranty. That's in direct contrast to many aftermarket accessories added by vehicle owners, which can sometimes void a car's entire warranty.

While FIAT has not announced precisely what options it plans to make available in the Custom Shop--or what they'll cost--the brand says it will launch with around 60 different accessories. Such items will likely include graphics packages to spruce up the 500's exterior, stylish roof racks for improved practicality and body kits that change the hatchback's look. FIAT did say it would offer leather seats in Pop and Sport trim levels, which are not currently available as traditional options.

In addition to the options available at launch, FIAT says the Custom Shop program will soon expand to offer more than 150 accessories. Such items expected to be available later include cold air intakes, cat-back exhausts and other upgrades designed to improve performance rather than just appearance.

FIAT's decision to offer in-house customization isn't unknown in the auto industry. Toyota's youth-oriented Scion brand also offers a similar program that lets owners distinguish their vehicles without voiding the warranty. That program, which was launched soon after Scion in 2004, even went as far as offering a supercharger on the sporty tC coupe.

What it means to you: Although the 500 hatchback already stands out from the crowd, a custom FIAT 500 will be even more distinctive than the regular model.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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