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Auto Show:  2011 Philadelphia Auto Show

2011 Philadelphia Auto Show - Fiat 500 Attracts a Broad Age Group

January 31, 2011

We heard that Fiat was making a first time appearance at the Philadelphia Auto Show, so we decided to check out the booth. As expected, the staging of the 2012 Fiat 500 was colorful – with both gorgeous female Fiat product specialists dressed in tight white and a revolving group of gawkers of all ages.

Just to catch you up to speed, the original Fiat 500, also know as the Cinquecento, made its mark more than half a century ago in Italy. The 2012 Fiat 500, more modern but still retaining a lot of its original memorable minimalistic styling, is making its first foray into American driveways. So, more than 50 years later, this small iconic four-seater, which Fiat refers to as the automotive equivalent of an iPod, is trending its way into the small car segment.

On the showroom floor, there were two sport models, one in Rosso (red) and one in Nero (black) with blue graphic stripes.

When Chrysler introduced the Fiat 500 recently, marketing heads noted that they were not zeroing in on a specific market. However, they did mention the “Fiat Freaks” (people who bought one online nearly a year ago) and the Millennials (young drivers) were its potential buyers.

Indeed, the crowd at the display did appear to span generations. We asked one of the Fiat specialists whom she thought the booth was attracting. She noted that college kids and their parents, long distance drivers in need a city car and baby boomers were all intrigued.

“People from ages 40 to 70 are asking me about it. They want it for their kid’s first car or for a sweet 16 gift,” she said. “People are so excited about this… the Fiat 500 is such a happy car and it’s just adorable.”

Adorable in the smallest possible way. We overheard one boomer-type exclaim, “It sits four people–hard to believe. You gotta’ be smaller people!”

But what about those millennials that Fiat mentioned?

We talked to James, a 24-year-old car magazine buff, who said he’s been reading about the 500s coming to the US for over a year. “I’m hoping that they bring the Abarth turbo-charged version from Europe because it has more power.”

What’s the particular appeal for James? “It’s mostly from European automotive magazines and video games. The appeal is from recognition,” he noted.

 “Fiat has also put a lot of work into making video games with cars actually handling like they do in real life. They’ve gotten pretty realistic.”

Currently, computer technician James owns a “really small” 1995 Mitsubishi 3,000 GT (twin turbocharged V-6 engine with 320 horsepower) that apparently inhales gas. So for him, the low mpg is something to note. But, the smallness factor? No big deal. He’s used to not having a back seat.

And James also thinks the Cinquecento will have a place in the market, “It will sell well because of the competition,” he said, comparing the Fiat 500 to the smart car, Honda CR-Z and Nissan Juke.

“All of these base models are in the $15,000 range and well equipped.”

HOLLY REICH writes about cars, travel, lifestyle and more. Her work has been featured in publications that include: Elite Traveler, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The Boston Herald. She contributes monthly to Motor Matters syndicate and her blog, "Riffs on Rides," appears on

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2011 Philadelphia Auto Show - Fiat 500 Attracts a Broad Age Group - Autotrader