Even before automatic or dual-clutch transmissions became the norm for most automakers, any foreign company that wanted to have a moderate success in the U.S. market always offered a two-pedal option for its models. One exception is Fiat’s Abarth sub-brand.
If you visit the Italian carmaker’s U.S. website and select the “Powertrain” section from the “Choose Options” menu, the only choice you get is an “Engine Block Heater”, as both the Abarth 500 Coupe and Cabrio are offered exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Speaking to WardsAuto on the sidelines of the media launch of the new Abarth 500 Cabrio, Fiat North America president Tim Kuniskis said that the brand will add an automatic transmission to the range in the near future, primarily to draw in more female buyers as the current split in sales is 80 percent male and 20 percent female.
“I think (with) Cabrio, maybe we’ll get a couple more women. I don’t think it will change radically,” said Kuniskis about of the mix of Abarth buyers. “I think when we’ll see more women is when we have the automatic, and we’re planning to add the automatic in the Abarth at some point, only because we’re getting that feedback from customers.”
Kuniskis said that while 75 percent of all small car-buyers in Europe are women, it’s only 45 percent in the U.S., which is why Abarth chose to go for a manual-only gearbox. “We’re not opposed to doing it. We just didn’t think there would be consumer requests for it, and there is,” he said.