Friday, May 26, 2017


My latest sojourn in Italy brought some interesting observations on the state of the country’s national car industry.

Italy is a country of extremes, nowhere more noticeable than the automotive landscape. At the bottom end of the market is the FIAT range of (almost) forgettable cars.

Take the FIAT Tipo, the company’s latest assault on the C-segment. It’s a car that is pedestrian in both design and engineering.

The Tipo is based on the ageing 2005 General Motors-FIAT small car platform, which underpins a plethora of very uninspiring cars.

Apart from taxis, the Tipo is a somewhat rare sight, compared to the Cinquecento range. 
There is no doubt in my mind that the only thing making money for FIAT is the 500, in all its forms.

The car itself has become Italy’s latest, and most successful, automotive icon, but that’s also true of the extended range including the 500+ wagon, which is based on the Jeep Renegade platform.

FIAT 500s literally infest every street in Italy, and why not? 

It’s a very well designed and engineered car; and the Plus and LWB versions are providing efficient, roomy family motoring for Italians just like their predecessors.

That other recent addition to FIAT’s lineup, the 124 Spider, is less in evidence in its home market.

I saw only two privately-owned 124s; but there were quite a few Abarth 124s rolling out of the AVIS rental car garage at Milano’s Malpensa airport.

Now, to our rental car for this year’s vacation.

The quirky Lancia Ypsilon hatch is built on a platform shared with the FIAT Panda, and the Ford Ka.

Of the three, Lancia’s design is the most individual; but the Panda is more practical, and the Ka certainly the best looking of the trio.

More on the Ypsilon later; but nothing provided greater graphic comparisons of the Italian automotive panorama than this photo at traffic lights in Como.

A Lamborghini, a FIAT 500 and a Vespa – that just about sums up the country’s choice of ‘wheels’ – from the lowliest to the grandest.

Of course, as a paid-up member of the Alfisti I was keen to see how many Alfa Romeo Giulias I would see.
It was a grand total of – one!

On the car ferry between Bellagio and Menaggio there was a base model, diesel Giulia with a family on board. I asked the owner why I had seen so few, and his answer was simply that they were too expensive in Italy, and Italians had lost faith in the brand!

One thing which truly endorsed the success of the hatchback concept was this shot from the streets of Como.

The B-segment hatch is the car of choice for most people in Europe, and the variety ensures there's plenty of competition in this sector.


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