Unique “Abarth Stories” tell about Abarth driving passion for the Belux market…

FCA journalists launch gripping Abarth short stories series, starting with a visit to Thierry Boutsen in Monaco…

The dynamic PR and marketing people of FCA Belgium come up with an unique formula to keep the passion for the “Scorpione” alive. They launch mini-video stories that testify to the Abarth passion. The first episode shows the Belgian pilot Thierry Boutsen at the wheel of the Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario…

This “Abarth Stories” concept was specifically devised for the Belux market. With good reason: since the launch of the brand in 2008, Abarth has achieved increasing success in Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and is even about to become a reference in our shores when it comes to sporting cars.

The first «Abarth Story» of 2020 brings viewers to the principality of Monaco, where they meet Belgian pilot Thierry Boutsen. He was so impressed with this latest creation from Turin, the Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario, that he decided to buy one!

Thierry Boutsen has lived in Monaco with his family for years. The Festival du Cirque De Monte Carlo is in full swing, and with a bright blue sky outside, the FCA journalist meets Thierry Boutsen in the lobby of the Columbus hotel. Boutsen has devoted more than 23 years of his life to car racing and motor sport, a man with a true passion for cars.

In the original Cinquecento, Thierry Boutsen taught his mother to drive…

“I taught my mother to drive,” he tells our journalist quietly. “It was aboard a Fiat 500.” This undoubtedly explains his enthusiasm for the thoroughbred version the current model, sold under the brand name Abarth. «I have purchased this special edition in honor of the brand’s 70th anniversary, and it has been finished in the same color scheme as the 1957 Fiat 500 that I also own. So the circle is round! » he smiles.

Following him in the narrow streets of Monaco towards the corniche that takes us to the motorway towards Menton, one immediately sees that Boutsen has immense driving talents as a pilot, and they amply show behind the wheel of these new toys. «This new Abarth has everything one could wish for: it is light, agile, powerful, has perfect handling and powerful brakes. Everything was developed to achieve the best », Thierry smiled.

For more than 20 years, Thierry Boutsen has been involved in aircraft mediation with his company Boutsen Aviation, which is also based in Monaco. But his passion for cars is still well alive. “I still remain a car enthusiast,” he adds. «That is why I recently set up a new company specializing in the sale of collection cars, cars suitable for public roads and competition cars. Our specialty? Find rare vehicles that meet the specific criteria of the customers, from a Lancia Stratos or Porsche 904 to a Ferrari F1 in running order! » And now he relives also the passion for Abarth…

A thriving market for the cars with the “Scorpione” in Belgium…

With 1,700 cars sold in Belgium in 2019 and around 21,000 in Europe, Abarth is the sporting jewel in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group. Born from the heritage of Carlo Abarth, the newest 695 70 ° Anniversario is a unique model that complements the range of models 595, available in the Turismo and Competizione versions. This Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario impresses with its new rear spoiler, which is manually adjustable,and this “Spoiler ad Assetto Variabile” can be adjusted in twelve positions, with a slope of 0 to 60 degrees…

Abarth remains active in the competition, for example through the participation of the Abarth 124 Rally in the ERC Championship, and also takes part in the F4 Championships in Italy and Germany.

This is how new pilots are discovered, such as the young Arthur Leclerc, brother of F1 pilot Charles Leclerc, who started his career at Alfa Romeo, before making the switch to Ferrari.

We just let you enjoy further the photos here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Charles Fuster, Product Marketing Manager Fiat 500 X: this Sport version is built to conquer everybody’s sporting heart, like football…

Charles Fuster taking the 500X Sport to the football field…

When Fiat presented the 500 X Sport, they had the very good idea to draw a parallel between its excellent sporting and stylish qualities and embed it into the language and philosophy of top football. Therefore the venue of presenting this new Fiat was at the the “Luigi Ridolfi” Federal Technical Centre in Coverciano (FIorence), a centre of excellence for teaching, training and sport, as well as the historic seat of the Italian Football Federation.

The presentation “in the field” was expertly done by Charles Fuster, Product Marketing Manager 500 X, and the qualities of dynamism, precision, control

Echoing the qualities of the National Team in the Fiat 500 X…

and Italian style of this 500 X Sport were echoed on the accompanying screen by the coaches and specialists of the Italian national team, indeed the same characteristics that lead a player to wear the blue jersey of Italy with pride and joy…

Reason enough to have an interview with Charles Fuster here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

HK: How did you communicate the enhanced sporting characteristics and properties of the new 500 X to the top people of the Italian Football Federation, how did they tune into this? What was their reaction?

CF: Actually, the starting point and the basis was and is the car. It arrives with important improvements. The balance, the road holding, the performance, the style, and of course, when we had created this story about the car, we focused ourselves on the world of football. This had very good reasons: like Fiat, it is a very democratic world, it is a very accessible sport for everybody. And so we started to work with the Italian Football Federation to draw all these parallels, between the world of the automobile and the world of football.

Charles Fuster on the playing field…

This proved extremely interesting because all this storytelling proved extremely natural. Also the persons of the federation, who we have presented today is somebody who has worked all his life with football and has an incredible experience.

Top performance is top performance, whether one speaks about cars or people…

These people prepare the future stars of tomorrow. So we arrive at an allegory with a well perfected industrial product and a sports player, and this can be very eloquent…

 HK: indeed, this is very unique in your presentation today… we saw the comments of Roberto Mancini, Italy’s National Team Head Coach and others…

CF: Thank You, it is indeed the work of our whole team!

HK: Can you tell a bit more what is the mission of this sporting version of the 500 X…

CF: Just have a look at its position within the range. The Cinquecento is a typical women’s car. 75 % of the clients are women. This is different with the 500 X, where the buyers are about fifty-fifty between men and women. The 500 X Sport will also be bought by independent women who want to be seen having personality and character.

But this is a car which is targeted to a large public. We will not discriminate. Of course the car has a look which distinguishes it from the others in the range.

HK: Can you tell a bit more about the future electrification of the Fiat models? We think about PHEV…

CF: There will be something new in 2020. There will be an important electrified range at FCA in 2022. That is the only thing I can tell you right now… The first models will be launched in 2020, and this will continue throughout 2021 to 2022. It is the strategy of the group to be present in all forms of electrification. It will also be very important for the fleet market.

HK: We thank you for this interview.

Of course there is (still) more. We will treat you also shortly with further interviews with Danilo Coglianese, Head of Fiat & Abarth Communications, EMEA, and also have a long talk with Alessandro Grosso, Head of Fleet and Business Sales, EMEA, about the European Fleet markets and FCA’s position therein.

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Fiat 500X Sport at the holy grail of Italian football…

When you launch a sporting version of your crossover bestseller, you want it to be somewhere (very) special. And so the dynamic PR department of Fiat did. They invited us to nowhere less than the “Luigi Ridolfi” Federal Technical Centre in Coverciano (FIorence), a centre of excellence for teaching, training and sport, as well as the historic seat of the Italian Football Federation.

This had its good reasons. First of all, the FIGC Federation headquarters was chosen to honour the 20-year cooperation between the Fiat brand and the Federation, as well as to express the shared values uniting the new Fiat 500X Sport with sport in general.

Indeed, what better location could there be for displaying “in the field” the qualities of dynamism, precision, control and Italian style highlighted in this new version of the already iconic 500X, a car which has won the hearts in all parts of the globe.

We will soon tell you more here about the excellent sporting qualities of this 500X Sport, and we will also bring you again some interviews, notably with Charles Fuster, the product marketing manager of the 500 X, and Alessandro Grosso, Head of Fleet and Business Sales, EMEA.

Just stay tuned on these columns…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Women behind Cars: Angelica Carapezza

At the presentation of the new Fiat Ducato earlier this summer we met up with some very remarkable people of Fiat Professional, who had brought the new Fiat Ducato project to a pinnacle in the world of commercial vehicles, and also made a splendid presentation of it.

Intrigued as we were with the electric version of this Ducato, a harbinger in the trend towards clean urban mobility also for commercial purposes and bringing goods to our inner cities in an environmentally responsible way, we also directed our attention to the people behind this project, Domenico Gostoli, Head of Fiat Professional Electrification Programs, and Angelica Carapezza, assisting her boss in managing and coordinating the implementation of such electrification programs.

Angelica Carapezza and Domenico Gostoli, the team behind the Ducato Electric project…

We were very intrigued by the way they both worked out and conceived this programme, only to discover when we spoke to Signora Carapezza that she had a long lived passion for automobiles and Fiat, and had participated in many important projects which had marked the history of the Fiat brand and group.

This discovery led us to start up a series where we present you the profiles of remarkable women who play an important role in our automotive world. We start off with an interview here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

HK: You have already built up quite a long career with Fiat, and were at the heart of quite a few important projects. Can you tell more about this?

AC: I started to work in FCA, more than 30 years ago; at that time it was just Fiat, a domestic company very far from the international giant that is today. 

I started in the Logistics dept, ensuring Spare Parts distribution in Europe, then I passed to Purchasing, where I had the chance to have a key operative role in the “world car project”. Working for the realization of this project that took me for 3 years to Morocco as responsible for purchasing local and nationalized components- , then I came back in Italy. After a short while I was flying again to a new country for another important challenge: Vietnam, as responsible of the Licensee market where a local partner used to assemble CKDs (Completely Knocked Down) parts and components of the world car first and the Doblò thereafter.

After 1 year of exciting experience in Far East Asia, it was time to come back again to the old continent and face a new role: International Business Development. It was the time of great deals among OEMs: General Motors, Suzuki, Ford, Peugeot/Citroen, and many other negotiations which remain in the secret drawers of FCA… this was a great chance for me to be part of the epochal change which the automotive world was making! Time passes and I thought why not capitalize on all this experience and put it to good use in the commercial world? I took the opportunity to join Fiat Professional, first as responsible of Brand Developments (one amongst all: China experience) and then I was focusing my time on electric developments. Always “out of the box”!

HK: You even put up a project in Hanoi, involving a press drive with the new Doblò, this was in July 2003…

 AC: Yes, when I was in Vietnam, I took the chance to expand my professional background: my original assignment was to negotiate, with a local partner, a new licence for local assembly of a Fiat model. It happened that, even under the strong request of the local assembler, my role took a 360° shape: I was requested to figure out and organize the commercial launch of the Doblò (at that time I had no experience in this context), the local Partner gave me full white paper, and that is how the “Trans-Vietnam Road Show” took place.

We organised a press conference and launch ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City first, and then we literally “brought” the launch to the capital, alongside the coast of the country from south to north: a caravan of 13 Doblò’s, driving for 8 days, 2.600km, passing from Nha Trang, Danang, Halog Bay, and finally Hanoi; in the capital I set up a new launch ceremony and was honoured by the presence of Italian Ambassador and Vietnamese Minister of Transports.

36 young Angelica Carapezza heading in 2003 the launch of the Doblo in the Opera Hotel in Hanoi…

I was the only Italian and the only person of Fiat to manage the group of Vietnamese people of the Road Show: my best and most exciting professional experience ever! 

HK: What led you to Fiat, was it the attraction of all the wide creative and professional possibilities which result from working for such a large group with a global reach?

Working in one of the biggest companies of the world has positive and negative sides. You can benefit from the size of the company itself, and collect strong and different experiences which, in a smaller context, would oblige you to change company.

This basically means that after more than 30 years, each day I wake up being conscious that – even today – I’ll learn something more about this extremely complicated world called “automotive”. On the other hand – I speak personally – you develop such an attachment to the Company, feeling as being  truly yours, which makes it impossible to betray it with another one.

I feel FCA as being my family, my personal growth, my house. I have such a sentimental attachment to the Company that it is inconceivable for me to look elsewhere, and this is indeed my emotional boundary.

Angelica Carapezza in 2003 in Hanoi posing with the Italian Amabassador and the Vietnamese Minister of transport…

HK: Coming to the present project, putting the electric Ducato on the rails so to say, can you tell us more about the “bottom up”, client-based approach, focusing  first on building up a database with a specific, detailed study of customers’ real use of their vehicles, which involved a year of data gathering. How do you work together as a team with Domenico Gostoli?

AC: Domenico Gostoli is the most professionally experienced boss I’ve ever had. Working with him means to collect day by day competences and knowledges, thanks also to its vision and background: he collected in his career important roles in engineering, product planning and commercial, which is a quite rare combination in our world, and this makes him really stand “one step ahead”.

For the Ducato Electric, we started to analyse the real life utilization of the vehicles in different usage situations and missions, being conscious that an LCV means much more for our customer than just being a vehicle: it is the source of daily business revenue.

We put the customer in the centre, with his specific daily needs (path, km’s, delivery times, payload and volume request, city centre access, etc) and we conceived a Ducato where the new Electric propulsion enhances the successful modularity of Ducato that made it the #1 among LCVs in Europe (more than 12.000 versions of the same model manufactured in the biggest LCV plant @ Atessa, south Italy!).

Our “bottom up approach” starts from real life usage, and brings a fully tailor made and customized recommendation to customer, with whom we choose the best vehicle configuration fitting his specific needs, which have been subject to a prior analysis.

Fiat Professional electrification does not penalize the payload and volume of the vehicle, takes away the “range fear” thanks to his battery modularity and lets our customers accomplish their daily mission also in Co2 free cities. All our analysis are fully consistent to the epochal change of people behaviours and daily needs: e-commerce means rising delivery speed and the need for our customers to deliver goods, mainly in urban centres.

HK: What would you say/advise to women who want to start a career in the automotive world?  

I would not make a statement between men and women: first of all there must be passion and a daily predisposition to put oneself under questioning, by seeing a new thing, a new role as an opportunity. Disruption is always an opportunity, especially when you face it blindly. 

On the other side there is this daily truth: women carry a heavier burden, if you are also a mother, this may turn into a problem for your career. It is a matter of choices and compromises, always. For a woman much more than for a man, even today.

Each of us has to develop her/his “tailored professional profile”, because each of us has her/his “daily mission”, exactly like a Ducato Electric.

We thank You for this interview.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Chief Designer Klaus Busse, about the Alfa Tonale and the Fiat Centoventi: two stunning concept cars, showing two unique sides of Italian design… part 1.

Klaus Busse talked with us in depth about the Alfa Romeo Tonale…

Our series about the visit to the FCA Centro Stile in Torino starts with an intriguing interview and talk with Klaus Busse, vice president of Design for Fiat, Abarth, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, offering us interesting insights into the sculptural design philosophy and language of the iconic sporting Milano brand.

Of course this is not all. This in depth talk and interview covers more aspects about the Tonale, and furthermore also the Fiat approach to automotive product design…so we decided to split this interview into a series, focusing in more detail on the various aspects. So stay tuned on these columns for further reports in this series!

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

The original wooden styling sculpture of the legendary Multipla stands proudly in the entrance hall of the Torino based FCA Centro Stile…

Having walked through the impressive entrance hall of the Centro Stile, we started off with a question about how this styling centre is set up.

B:  “It is of course every day a joy for me to walk through the several studios of our Centro here. Every brand has a separate studio, and you met earlier here with Scott Krugger, the head of design for Alfa Romeo. (Note: this will be our next interview in this series). Every brand has their own head of design. We have 200+ individuals working here, from around the world. It is a very international team, we look at ourselves as the “espresso beans”, because as you know, espresso beans also come from around the world, but with the Italian process it creates an Italian iconic drink, and with the Italian process of design, we hopefully, you will agree, we are able to create Italian iconic design, even though the designers are not coming only from Italy, but from around the world.

We went first to the room of Alfa Styling department

Q: We are here seeing today shoulder to shoulder two different cars on our visit: the Tonale and the Centoventi…

B: I can tell you here first a few words about the Tonale itself, and notably also of the Fiat Centoventi. (Note: which we will also discuss later in separate interviews). It is a very rare thing for us to go to a show with two concept cars, and the beautiful thing we were able to do with the Alfa Romeo and the Centoventi, is that we were able to show the two sides of Italian design, the way we see it. So we have in front of us here with the Tonale the classic sculptural beauty of Italian design, and with the Centoventi we have the Italian approach to product design, applied to the car. So you see the two extremes of Italian design in the automotive sphere.

In the Fiat Centro Stile room, we stood eye to eye with the Centoventi… more about it later in this series!

With the Tonale, the challenge was, since it is again an SUV, and we have already an SUV with the Stelvio, to create something that is typical Alfa Romeo, but has nothing to do with the Stelvio in terms of the shapes. The Stelvio is a very muscular car, with emphasis on the wheels and the voluptuous shapes, here on the side you see we have a different construction of the car, we have a completely different front, so the challenge was that with our second entry to the SUV market, we do not create a copy of the big brother, like you see with other companies, who are just adopting a same design and adapt it to different sizes. We wanted to create something completely different with the Tonale.

The horizontal “eyebrow” line is clearly seen here…

Q: Will this car be a trendsetter for the future Alfa design?

The one thing you will not hear me talk about today is the future. I will talk about the present, about the Tonale, but I will not lift the veil more. All I can say is that I think we found something which is a beautiful progression. I saw that my team put the 8C model here, and maybe that allows me to highlight where I see the progression what the team has done here, when we look at the front. The 8C, the 4C, the Stelvio, the Giulia, all of these cars have basically have this hood line, it is a flowing design, and it nicely encompasses the grille. This face was applied to all current generation vehicles.

The muscle lines on the hood converging into the Scudetto, as seen here in the 8C, is now completely given up in the Tonale…

With the Tonale, we completely gave up this kind of interpretation, you still see the muscles of course leading to the Scudetto, but we went to a much more horizontal design. So we went from a vertical design to a horizontal design, and that of course is a completely different construction of the front, and this much I can tell you, we would not do this just for one car…

Klaus Busse dedicated a drawing to your servant… with the horizontal line clearly visible…

Because here, the 8C created a family of cars, and in this case again, it might create a new family of cars…

 As said stay tuned for the next part of this interview, where we will talk in depth about tradition and modernity embodied in today’s Alfa design language…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

The visit to the Centro Stile of the FCA Group in Turin proved immensely interesting…

We had long and in depth conversations with FCA Group Chief Designer Klaus Busse and his team…

What we saw and heard on our visit to the Torino based Centro Stile was nothing short of absolutely stunning. We had long and in depth conversations with FCA Group head of design Klaus Busse and his team, both from Alfa Romeo and Fiat styling.

The beautiful instrumentation and interior of the Tonale, with Klaus Busse watching in the background…

Needless to say that we are the coming days eager to report on all this extensively, and indeed you can expect to read our findings in several reports…

Alfa DNA styling revived on the drawing boards provides the mould for the new Tonale design…

The next few photos just lift a tip of the veil of the vast material we collected and photographed…

Rewriting democratic mobility and opening many new doors in design: the Centoventi Fiat

We just want to thank here the magnificent efforts of the dynamic PR team of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Belgium, notably Dominique Fontignies, PR & Communication Director and Wim Willems, Press Officer, for sharing the knowledge of these experts and their creations with us.  

Full of revolutionary, practical solutions: the interior of the Centoventi…

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Kia takes a very bold look at its electric future…

The upcoming Geneva Salon is as always a festival of creativity, with car manufacturers pulling all the stops when it comes to design and new visions. So concept cars abound, and Kia is no exception. Its European branch has unveiled new images of its bold new all-electric concept car, which is to be presented on the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show.

Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design for Kia Motors Europe, comments his design here. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “Kia takes a very bold look at its electric future…”

We spoke with Charlie Cooper, the grandson of one of the founding fathers of modern motorsport…

If there is a man who played a pivotal role in the evolvement and development of Formula One and motorsports as we know it, then it is John Cooper, who founded the Cooper Car Company with his father Charles, just after the Second World War.  The company started regular production of rear-engined 500cc cars in 1948.

It was Moss’s victory in the 1958 Argentinean Grand Prix that would really put the company from Surbiton firmly on the map. Moss was contracted to the Vanwall team for that year, but delays in adapting their engines to run on new fuels caused them not enter the race. Moss accepted the offer from Rob Walker to drive his privately entered 2.0-liter Cooper in the event.

In the end, the small Cooper’s good handling and the driving skill of Moss, saw them finish ahead of Luigi Musso’s Ferrari by just 2.7 seconds after 80 laps of racing. The racing world was surprised, Ferrari and Maserati had been defeated!

We spoke with at the celebration of 60 year MINI at the BMW stand on the Brussels Show with Charles Cooper, and you can read here more about this great conversation we both had.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We spoke with Charlie Cooper, the grandson of one of the founding fathers of modern motorsport…”

Brussels Salon drives into the future…

We will treat you in the coming days ans weeks to an extensive report on the Brussels Motor Show, with some notable (world) premieres like the Range Rover Evoque, for instance. We will also let you listen in with some interviews, notably of the designer of the Evoque, and also celebrate 60 years of Mini with further interesting encounters. Driving into the future autonomously on e-power is also very much in tht foreground, like this Smart Vision EQ fortwo you see here on the photo. It is designed with car sharing in mind, and takes its passengers whenever and wherever they want to go, and it doesn’t even have a steering wheel or any commands…

Stay tuned on these columns for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

We spoke with Peter Quintus, Sales Manager BMW M GmbH: “we embody a unique driving philosophy”

These are great times for BMW “M” : the BMW M5 has been voted “World Performance Car 2018”, making this the seventh time BMW has received a World Car Award from the organisation “World Car of the Year”.

aIMG_0943s

A good occasion to publish here the interview we had with Peter Quintus (on the left of the photo, and with Peter Henrich, CEO of BMW Group Belux) on the Brussels Car Show early this year…just read further!

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