29th February 2012

Chatting about platforms with Fiat’s A-segment R&D boss

posted in Car News Articles |

Vaulting over the iron walls erected by media handlers to get self and dictaphone in front senior industry engineers can often be a tricky process. But Fiat’s PR team is more enlightened than some.

So it was that earlier today I was able to chat to the head of A-segment vehicle R&D for Fiat (and Chrysler), Gianfelice Formento. While as guarded as men and women at his level always are told to be with the likes of me, he was refreshingly open on some topics – always a plus.

Curiously, Fiat has changed the name of the platform that underpins the 500. Formerly known as New Small, in modified form for the new Panda, it becomes ‘Mini Architecture’, but this is mostly a working title as the PR people don’t like the possible association with a certain BMW Group division.

Signore Formento, certainly one of the more courteous execs I have interviewed, also took the time to make sure there was clarity on how the engineering of vehicle architectures within Fiat and Chrysler now works. Responsibility for B-segment models will remain in Turin alongside A-segment vehicles. But when it comes to the C segment, yes this starts in Turin, but Chrysler then creates its own derivatives for the EPA’s Compact class in North America, not to mention crossovers and SUVs.

Sadly he wouldn’t tell me anything about Fiat’s future C-segment model for China, but there was a smile when I asked about its supposed strong connections to the new Dodge Dart.

One last point. I hadn’t realised until I was told, that the Mexican-made Fiat 500 sits on what is effectively a unique and re-engineered platform: US collision tests mean that the rear floorpan had to be bespoke. More on that topic, as well as the engineering elements of the new Panda, in my forthcoming PRODUCT EYE of that car.

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