Fiat's not kidding around with the launch of its Abarth tuning marque. Following an initial launch at the Geneva auto show earlier this year, The company's treating the venerable racing shop — and Fiat property since 1971 — as its own motorsport lifestyle brand, with swank, high-style offices, a racing division to rallying and racing projects and an online TV channel. All of this hoo-ha is required, considering only hardcore enthusiasts are aware of Abarth's racing achievements and scorpion logo. Watch for the T-shirts on ultra-tanned, coffee-slugging youngsters at a Bolognese cafe near you.
Press Release: The return of Abarth A glorious past, a winning idea for the future
A glorious past becomes the present, an all-conquering passion that is as strong today as it ever was: this is the inspiration behind Fiat Group Automobiles' plan to re-launch the Abarth name. Always synonymous with tough, spirited cars, challenges, passion and thrills, Abarth is back with a new range to whet the appetites of all sports car enthusiasts.
The novelty lies in the modern-day interpretation of everything that Abarth used to do in the past - starting with motor-racing, followed by prototypes and vehicle conversion kits, and even fashion accessories representing the Abarth style. An expression of the ultimate racing lifestyle, the new company will be active on several fronts: firstly, in the world of motorsport, an environment strictly related to competition, one-make trophies and cars prepared for private customers. Second, the commercial environment, including tuning - hence the production of conversion kits - not forgetting the extensive licensing and merchandising operations.
In short, Abarth is creating a world all of its own, a world that revolves around the core values that led to its great success in decades gone by: innovative design, state-of-the-art materials, and love for detail. Behind it all is an absolutely genuine passion for motoring, not to mention the company's human and technological assets, and the professional pride of the thousands of people - technicians, workers and executives - who have come and gone from the factories, offices and race tracks.
The target of Abarth's first project, later to be extended to other models, was the Grande Punto - on sale in Italy from September. It will be on the market in Switzerland by the end of the year, and will also be available in other countries during the course of 2008. There will hardly be time to draw breath between each launch: between now and the end of 2008, no less than four new product launches have been planned. The brand's development plans will force it to expand its production capability in the short term, and within a few months, Abarth's new home will have been completed at the Mirafiori plant. The new premises will group together the company's manufacturing, design and management divisions.
This fast pace explains the decision to give Abarth its own brand, managed by an independent company (Abarth & C. S.p.A., 100%-owned by Fiat Group Automobiles) whose distribution is entrusted to an exclusive commercial organisation covering four levels: flagship service centres, dealers, specialised tuners and workshops.
Agile and quick off the mark (in the best Abarth tradition), Abarth & C. S.p.A is in the hands of Chief Executive Officer Luca De Meo, and covers three areas of activity: Business Operations, Engineering & Manufacturing Operations and Racing Operations. The first division, led by Antonino Labate, has the task of designing the products and services for the customisation and tuning of standard sports cars, organising the sales and service network, and managing Abarth's merchandising and licensing operations.
The second area, Engineering & Manufacturing Operations, is headed by Paolo Ollino. He is responsible for technical development and production, together with the tuning and servicing of competition cars, and developing the car customisation and tuning products. The division works in partnership with the Engineering & Design division of Fiat Group Automobiles (led by Harald Wester).
Finally, the Racing Operations division, led by Claudio Berro, has the task of coordinating Abarth vehicles' entries in national and international motorsport competitions, organising the championships reserved for private customers, and managing relations with racing and rallying clients and sponsors.
Last but not least, Abarth can rely on the assistance of Paolo Martinelli, director of the Engine Division (Racing Operations) at Ferrari until October 2006, and currently head of the Petrol Engine Development Division at Fiat Powertrain Technologies.