Fiat said Thursday that it will buy a 16 percent share of Chrysler for $1.3 billion as part of its goal of taking a majority stake in the U.S. automaker. Fiat expects to gain another 5 percent, for a majority 51-percent share, by the end of the year.
At the show, Fiat and Chrysler were showing two new convertibles just feet away from each other. The Fiat 500 cabrio is stylish, European and tiny, the Chrysler 200S is more substantial, luxurious and "imported from Detroit," according to the tagline in Chrysler's ads. Here's the rundown:
UNDER THE HOOD: The Fiat 500 cabrio has a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 101 horsepower and up to 38 miles per gallon (16 kilometers per liter) on the highway with a manual transmission. The 200S has a new3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine with 283 horsepower and 29 miles per gallon (12.3 kpl) on the highway.
INSIDE: The 200S has special design elements to mark it as an S model, including a distinctive front grille, body color mirrors and door handles, 18-inch (45-centimeter) wheels, suede accents on the seats and doors and an embroidered "S'' on the front head rests. It doesn't have the Dr. Dre-designed stereo system unveiled Wednesday on the flagship 300S, but it does have upgraded audio. The 500 cabrio continues Fiat's emphasis on personalization with 12 possible seat colors and three color options for the ragtop: black, red or tan.
PRICE TAGS: The Fiat 500 cabrio will be the least expensive four-seat convertible on the market, with a starting price of $19,500. That's $4,000 more than the starting price of a regular 500. The 200S starts at $32,490, or $6,045 more than a regular 200 convertible. Both convertibles go on sale this spring.
CHEERS: The Fiat 500 and the Chrysler 200S meet a need for lower-priced convertibles just as the summer driving season begins. The 500 has the added bonus of superior fuel economy as gas prices spike. Fiat's North American chief, Laura Soave, said Fiat initially expected that 10 percent of 500 sales would be convertibles, but is revising that upward after a lot of positive response from consumers.
JEERS: The 200S convertible's price tag is approaching the price of a BMW 1-Series convertible. Customers may not think it's worth it to lay out that much more for the S designation.