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Having been sold overseas for several years now and with a very long lead-up, Fiat has officially announced its return to the U.S. marketplace with the launch of the Fiat 500 (or Cinquecento) at the LA Auto Show today. Touting fuel economy, passion and a highly customizable package, the 500 is the first of many Fiats set to be sold in the U.S., followed closely by a convertible version and then by several Abarth high-performance models.

All Fiat 500 models will come powered by the same 1.4-liter Multiair 4-cylinder engine making roughly 100-hp and 98 ft-lbs of torque. The Multiair system was recently announced as one of the top automotive technologies for 2010 by Popular Science Magazine. It essentially works like a typical variable valve timing system, except it uses hydraulic actuators rather than cams. The result is roughly a 10 to 15 percent improvement in power and fuel economy.

Fiat will offer the 500 in three trim levels: Pop, Sport and Lounge with all models getting cruise control, power windows and locks as well as air conditioning. Sport models come with more aggressive front and rear bumpers as well as a retuned suspension; while Lounge models get chrome accents, leather seats, 15-inch wheels and a new 6-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode.

More: LA 2010: Fiat 500 Debuts With Focus on Passion, Fuel Economy and Individualization on AutoGuide.com
 

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Chrysler Announces First 130 U.S. Fiat Dealers


Absent from the American market since 1982, Fiat is now back in big way. Chrysler announced today a list of 130 dealerships across the country that have received letters of intent for a Fiat franchise.

Once these dealers fulfill the requirements of the letter and can provide the facilities and requirements submitted in their proposals made to Auburn Hills; they can begin selling Fiat vehicles, beginning with the pint sized 500. The car, which as been on sale in Europe for a few years, is being officially introduced to the North American market this week at the Los Angeles International Auto Show.

And although a few 500s will be arriving in dealerships next month, none will be officially sold until January 2011, and even then they'll only be trickling out in small numbers. A volume launch of the North American 500, which will be built in Mexico and classed as a 2012 model year vehicle, according to Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel; isn't planned until a couple of months later in March.

More: Chrysler Announces First 130 U.S. Fiat Dealers on AutoGuide.com
 
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