Three new Fiat models -- including Chrysler's first-ever electric car -- will join the Fiat lineup in 2013, giving the Italian brand a broader range of cars that it hopes will keep the brand's U.S. sales growing.
Today, at the L.A. Auto Show, Chrysler majority owner Fiat will unveil the all-electric Fiat 500e, a longer five-seat Fiat called the 500L and a convertible version of its Abarth performance model.
The automaker declined to disclose pricing for any of the cars.
While Chrysler is a latecomer to the electric and hybrid game, it is eager to compete in California, which accounts for 32% of all-new electric vehicle sales and 24.7% of all hybrids sold in the U.S.
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The 500e to be unveiled today will come with an electric orange exterior with a white and orange interior.
Tim Kuniskis, head of Fiat Brand North America, said he expects the 2013 Fiat 500e to reach beyond the typical set of environmentally conscious first-adopters.
"We are not going to build a car for the guy who says I've got to have an electric car, because that customer is a tiny, tiny, tiny segment," Kuniskis said. "A bigger segment is the guy who says I want a Fiat 500, but I am open to considering new technology."
The 500e's lithium-ion battery pack produces 111 horsepower and recharges in less than 4 hours with a 240-volt charger.
Kuniskis said the car will go an average of 80 miles on a single charge and more than 100 miles in city driving.
That translates into an estimated 116 m.p.g. equivalent in the city and 100 m.p.g.e. on the highway, Fiat said.
A thermal management system will allow the car to travel about the same distance on a single charge in hot or cold conditions because it will maintain a constant temperature for the battery.
The battery for the 500e comes from German auto supplier Robert Bosch and will be produced in Springboro, Ohio.
The 500e is to go on sale during the second quarter of 2013 in California and eventually in other markets.
Fiat has 25 dealers in California and 183 nationwide. The dealers that were open struggled because they had only one model to sell.
Fiat will continue to broaden its lineup next summer with the introduction of the all-new 2014 Fiat 500L.
The 500L subcompact crossover has four doors and is 26 inches longer, as well as 6 inches taller and wider, than the Fiat 500.
"It is a perfect complement to the showroom," Kuniskis said.
Fiat also will launch a variant called the 500L Trekking designed for those who want a more rugged look.
"We really think it's a great fit for ... people with a more active lifestyle," said Matt Davis, head of Fiat product marketing in North America.
Both of the four-door models will be assembled at Fiat's plant in Kragujevac, Serbia.
In addition, dealers are to get a convertible version of the Fiat Abarth this spring. It comes with a turbocharged and twin-intercooled 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine that produces 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, paired with a five-speed manual transmission.
"Our Fiat 500 and now all-new Fiat 500L illustrate the different personalities and capabilities the brand can deliver from the same basic sheet metal," Kuniskis said.
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