By Bria Balliet
One of the first players in the automobile industry, Fiat has expertly navigated a winding road. From the founding of the company in 1899 to the recent unveiling of its award-winning 500 model, Fiat has grown to become synonymous with modern, sleek, Italian design. With exciting new cars and innovative technology, the company has solidified its role as a premier example of European styling.
Fiat had been making vehicles for more than 50 years when the Nuova 500 (the first model in the 500 series) was released in 1957. This model launched the brand back into prominence after a hiatus during World War II, and set the course for a string of advancements and improvements including increased space and better gas mileage. Its compact design helped drivers navigate the narrow Italian streets with ease, but unlike the scooter—the most popular mode of transportation at the time—it also left room for storage.
Several subsequent models—the 500 Sport, 500D and 500F—cemented the Fiat 500’s success and reflected the brand’s evolution over the next decade. In 1968 the 500L, or Lusso, was released. Aimed at a luxury market, the Lusso revealed updates like chrome detailing, quilted leather seats and improved fuel economy, and was sold at a higher price point.
Viewed as the proverbial swan song of the series, only one other 500 model was released after the Lusso, the 500R. Almost 3.9 million examples of the historic 500 model were built before the car was taken off the market in 1975.
Fifty years after Fiat first introduced the 500, the release of the new Fiat 500 in 2007 marked a new era for the brand. Fresh, sporty, luxurious and a bit nostalgic, the new 500 was an immediate hit when it entered European markets that year. In an age of environmentally conscious vehicles, Fiat combined iconic Italian style with speed, agility and higher gas mileage, something that popular hybrid models hadn’t yet achieved.
Three years later, in 2010, the Fiat 500 launched the return of the brand in North America and became an international sensation. The Fiat Cinquecento (500) Prima Edizione epitomized classic Italian design and featured modern safety and quality standards, seamlessly blending old and new. The editions that followed have maintained this vision while expanding options to appeal to drivers’ needs. The 500L has also made its return, still providing Italian refinement and increased functionality. With four doors and seating for five, the model has remained true to its roots without sacrificing a key aspect—being fun to drive.
Always evolving, Fiat will undoubtedly continue to make groundbreaking advancements in technology and design to the delight of auto fans. And, this time around, the 500 is here to stay. L