Chrysler at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show
New cars and exhibits
The Chrysler Exhibit was very busy with attendants, and the FIAT 500e and 500 L press conference by Olivier François was both engaging and entertaining. He previewed a set of upcoming 500 L ads that continue the humorous flavor of the Italian Immigrants commercial from earlier this year. The position for the 500e will be “Environmentally Sexy.”
The Fiat 500C Abarth is similar to the standard 500C convertible, with Abarth decorations, and about 50% more power.
The Fiat 500L looks less awkward in person than it does on photos, but it is an odd looking car nonetheless, for American tastes, at least. Fiat plans to continue its humorous campaign, probably in part to overcome the oddness of the vehicle. There will be a regular version and a “Trekking” version with outdoorsy pretentions and additional cladding.
I was not able to get into the 500L: the crowd swarmed onto the stage to get a closer look as soon as Olivier finished his presentation. I doubt the vehicle will become mainstream in the US. I think the fact that it is significantly larger (it is two feet longer but has 42% more interior space, per their specs), will help Fiat continue building sales momentum in America, but the proportions are still more Italian than anything mainstream America is used to. Besides, Americans prefer 3-box designs over hatches. Having said that, I think Fiat has the correct marketing approach by leveraging its “Italianness” with a self-deprecating humor to ease its way into the US market.
Still, successful vehicles ask for few compromises. Fiat is asking Americans to make larger compromises, though: if you want the heritage, cute looking Fiat you have to get the smaller, less versatile 500; if you want the day-to-day convenience, added room and versatility, you have to get the odd looking one.
The Fiat 500e looks just like the regular 500 but has special wheels, a high-tech instrument cluster with orange lighting, and a push button auto matic transmission. There is also a 500 Abarth convertible coming.
Between the inherent charm of the 500, the engaging, approachable Mr François, and the hilarious ads he showed us, Fiat put one of the best presentations of the day — with Hyundai a close second. Mr. François got many laughs throughout his speech: he made his French accent work to his advantage by making funny use of the “L” in 500 to sound the way Frenchmen say the English word “Hell” -- e.g., “go to L.” When he was done, he got a standing round of applause. Mr Gilles was sitting in the front row.
As a Mopar enthusiast, I was thrilled to see the high level of energy and exciting exhibit Chrysler-Fiat put together. By contrast, the Ford exhibit seemed rather clinical and devoid of emotion — although I missed their Press Conference on Fiesta ST.
One thing François and Marchionne both seem to have is a sense of self-deprecation that puts people at ease quickly, and possibly, makes Fiat’s comeback to the US less threatening.
Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler cars on display
There was a mysterious 300C concept on the turntable which will be announced on Friday. The staff would not tell me more than that. It has unique symbols engraved on the seats and a trunk badge, satin silver mirrors, wheels and exhaust tips, and brilliant black paint. It is, in fact, the previously announced Varvatos 300C. Varvatos is a Detroit-born stylist with a wide range of products.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary was shown with special hood RUBICON lettering with red outlines and a unique 10th Anniversary badge below the Trail Rated badge; Radar Red leather upholstery, unique stubby front bumper with intergrated fog-lamps, and a new rear bumper (a Mopar part included in the 10th Anniversary package). The vehicle on display had the Grand Cherokee steering wheel with satin trim, and Warn winch nestled in the front bumper with red hook to match the red theme on the Jeep. Jeep is showing a new red-colored Trail Rated badge on the new Jeeps.
As the owner of several Rubicons, I will say that I did not see the 10th Anniversary edition bringing anything of substance over existing Rubicons beyond the special badging and the awareness that Rubicon has been a successful product for ten years. Rubicon has been about the capability, and adding a badge seems a little shallow from that standpoint, but some loyal owners may want to get their hands on it for the same reason that they love their Rubicon.
The Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper Concept has Mopar wheels, 42-inch swamper tires on eight-lug beadlock wheels, perforated artificial suede seating, prototype bumpers, and portal axles (the ones shown in the Mighty FC concept).
Project Ultraviolet Jeff Dunham Challenger SRT: unique purple paint, Mopar scoop hood, front air splitters, headlight covers, special rear spoiler... and a Mopar 426 Hemi engine. This is not an on-road vehicle. Several aftermarket companies contributed to this project, and they were all on the explanation plaque alongside the Mopar part numbers.
There was also a Charger Daytona, Wrangler Moab, Grand Cherokee TrailHawk, a Durango, and a Dart painted matte gray. (See the photo section after “Fiat cars and exhibits.”)
2012 Los Angeles Car Show Launches
Dodge Charger Daytona
Dodge has officially released the 2013 Dodge Charger Daytona. As with every Charger Daytona made after 1971, it is essentially a cosmetic package with other minor tweaks — but those tweaks include a higher-performance 3.06 rear axle ratio, high-speed engine controller, paddle shifters with sport mode, and performance steering and suspension. The cost is $2,500 above the R/T Road & Track, or $2,995 above the R/T. Details and photography. (The image above is actually a pre-launch rendering by Susan Rand — see how close she was.)
Chrysler Town & Country S
The Town & Country S brings a blackened chrome grille, black-accented wheels, and blackened headlight inserts, black headliner, black leather-and-cloth seats, and even a black-on-silver Chrysler logo in back. It will be sold in black, red, white, and silver, with a segment-exclusive Blu-Ray/HDMI rear-seat entertainment system, multiple screens that can show different movies, USB ports that can be used for charging; it also has a sport suspension, similar to the Caravan R/T. The screens are higher definition than in 2012, and continue to have wireless headphones.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
The 2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Tenth Anniversary increases the ride height by half an inch over the standard Rubicon, giving the BF Goodrich KM2 265/70R17 tires more room to claw at rugged terrain. 17-inch Rubicon aluminum wheels are painted satin black with polished faces, and a red Jeep Wrangler “icon” logo on the outside lip.
Black front and rear steel off-road bumpers toughen up the exterior; removable front bumper end caps can prevent damage to the bumper. A dual-intake Power Dome hood helps aid in engine cooling and appearance. Mopar rock rails give added protection from trail damage. Details
Fiat 500e, 500L, 500C Abarth
The Fiat 500C Abarth puts the 160 horsepower turbo engine under the hood of the Fiat Cabrio.
The Fiat 500L is a larger car — indeed, it’s based on an enlarged Punto, but has the looks and suspension architecture of the Fiat 500, finally providing four doors to those who want them, and in the 21st century, that’s most Americans. It, too, uses the 160 horsepower turbocharged engine.
The Fiat 500e finally applies all that electric-car technology Chrysler has been working on, along with that of its suppliers; it should be faster and more responsive than a standard gasoline Fiat 500, and has an app that lets you access car functions from your phone.