March 25, 2013 – Vol.18 No. 2
ATTENTION FIAT: SELL THE 500E NATIONWIDE.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Consumer Reports magazine doesn't accept advertising. However, indirectly it's probably is one of the most effective advertisers in the United States. It helps sales when a product review says something nice, but manufacturers loath the publication when a product test says something rotten.
Automakers, in particular, cherish a good report, but sweep a bad one under the rug. (Still, as anyone in marketing will tell you, any mention of a product, good or bad, is better than no mention at all.)
The folks at Chrysler Group, and its major shareholder Fiat, are probably ecstatic about a recent Consumer Reports first drive report for the California-bound 500e electric drive.
Words like this pop out of the CR online video:
"... something of a hoot to drive ..."
"... but that electric power train delivers its power from an instant surge of torque..."
"... the Fiat 500e is kind of a cool little car ..."
Hoot, surge and cool-little-car sells cars and Fiat knows it. Particularly when they come from the often nerdy and sometimes overly critical publication.
It's not surprising that CR used those words. The current crop of electric vehicles take advantage the full torque available right from the starting line. Unlike gasoline engines that develop peak torque at some relatively high rpm, peak torque from an electric motor is available at anything above zero rpm. It's torque that helps makes the 500e a hoot to drive. Already good handling, made better by a really low center of gravity from the battery pack hung underneath, would add to the fun. The 500e has about the same torque as the newly launched turbo version of the 500, both at a little less than 150 pound-feet. Horsepower on the "e" is 111, compared with 134 on the non-Abarth turbo gas version.
Being a hoot to drive may be one its best selling points, and if so, something other EV developers might copy. It is true that most of the time people drive short distances. Maybe an around town runabout, that can zip and nip around city streets or suburban neighborhoods, may be enough to push people into signing up for a sale or lease: Including the 500e.
Battery range with the 500e is EPA estimated at 87 miles, bettering the Nissan Leaf by 14 miles and the Ford Focus by 11. In terms of gasoline equivalent fuel efficiency the 500e is one of the most efficient available at 116 equivalent miles per gallon.
Fiat hasn't released pricing for the 500e. Pundits say that it would match its nearest competitor the Nissan Leaf, yet this is just pure speculation. Pundits are also saying that Fiat will lose $10,000 per car. This is also speculation which may have its roots from an off-the-cuff remark by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne . In the past Mr. Marchionne has spoken poorly about EV's.
Fiat says the car will be first launched in California halfway through this year. Plans to sell it elsewhere, if at all, have not been announced. Yet maybe with some nationwide grassroots support Fiat might consider more states.
Beyond support from electric vehicle and Fiat enthusiasts, the Chrysler Group might have an underlying reason to sell the 500e nationwide: Meeting CAFE requirements. Electric cars with high gasoline fuel efficiency equivalents, weigh higher on the CAFE calculation than anything else. The more 500e's Fiat can sell the easier it will for Chrysler/Fiat to meet CAFE. Further, looking at the rest of the lineup, Chrysler has only the new Dart and other Fiat 500 variants to fall upon to raise the corporate average. Other companies have multiple products working together average for high fuel economy.
Besides, based on what this one review says, the 500e may be one of the best electric vehicles out there. It would be a shame for Fiat to deny the rest the country this hoot of a car.
So take a look at the YouTube review and if you like what you see send a note to Fiat directly or through Facebook or Twitter.
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