American Designers See Opportunity in Working With Fiat

The partnership between American and Italian designers remains fruitful, with both sides working to preserve the heritage of Fiat’s calling card, the 500.

Aaron Foley, Associate Editor

July 19, 2013

2 Min Read
Fiat 500 due for refresh
Fiat 500 due for refresh.

SANTA MONICA, CA – The Fiat 500 subcompact may be turning heads in the U.S., but it’s one product under the Chrysler-Fiat umbrella that will remain distinctly Italian.

“A lot of the work that’s going on with the new 500 is basically going to be done in Italy,” Brandon Faurote, head-Chrysler and Fiat brand North America design, tells WardsAuto on the sidelines of a media drive here. “We’ll be part of it from a distance.”

The 500 is such an iconic European vehicle that there is risk of diluting its image with too many hands at the drawing table. But it doesn’t mean American designers at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills, MI, headquarters aren’t involved in future planning.

American input plays heavily in developing new trims and packages for the 500, the overall styling of which comes under the direction of Fiat design chief Roberto Giolito.

“(Giolito is) really interested to know what personalities it can take on,” Faurote says. “It’s a really good relationship with respect both ways.”

American designers have the most influence in Europe with the Lancia brand, which markets several badge-engineered Chrysler-brand products overseas. “Anything that they’re doing on Lancia that they want us to know about, (they tell us),” Faurote says.

But the prime opportunities, he says, lie with rebirthing Fiat in the U.S.

“We feel fortunate to be able to work on a brand like Fiat,” he says. “Just like some Europeans really love American cars because there’s this thing that’s foreign and exotic in a way, we kind of see Fiat in the same way.

“Designers in America, just like customers in America, see Fiat as this unique special brand. And I think (it’s) the same way when customers pay good money to buy a Fiat. They buy it because they respect it because it’s unique,” Faurote adds.

Asked if there’s potential for a U.S.-developed Fiat product, he says it’s not on the table for now.

“So far we haven’t discussed anything like that. I think it makes sense in the short term to have most of the design work start in Italy because it’s an Italian brand.

“Longer-term, who knows? There might be some opportunities there.”

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Aaron Foley

Associate Editor, WardsAuto

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