In the streets around the autoMedia.com office in Torrance, it’s not uncommon to see companies like Honda and Toyota testing future vehicles on local roads. After all, their corporate headquarters are right down the street.
But we were a bit surprised to find ourselves alongside some kind of FIAT 500 testing mule earlier this week, and even more surprised to see the disguise on the hatch. The big question is: What exactly are we looking at?
We posed that question to our Facebook followers, here, and the post garnered an interesting, heated and funny conversation. The easy answer was to call the covered rear bumper a “diaper,” but of course there’s more to it than that.
The other clue is the blatant “EV” sticker on the rear window, but if FIAT is testing an electric 500 model, don’t you think that’s a little, I don’t know, on the nose? That said, the car doesn’t appear to have a visible exhaust pipe on the left end, where it usually does. So maybe this really is a future electrified 500.
The funny thing is that FIAT is apparently testing a nearly identical car in Florida, as well. Jalopnik posted a reader-submitted photo as well – just one day before we had our own sighting – and pointed out that the testing mule rides on a taller suspension height than normal. That’s not immediately apparent on our 500 sighting, but if it is true, what could that mean? An all-wheel drive version? A flying version? Probably not, but we can’t be sure.
Whatever the case, Fiat could probably use a little excitement in the lineup. After making an initial splash, the FIAT 500 has hit a sales wall here in the U.S. In July, customers bought 3,710 vehicles for a 22-percent improvement over July 2011. Normally, that’s pretty nice growth. But that was before FIAT launched a massive advertising campaign that they probably thought would bear more fruit.
What do you think?