Abarth has a rich past – a real future
Abarth has a long and fan-filled past, but it was heading into history until 2007. That was when the Italian brand started a journey back to life, with the Abarth Grande Punto. A year later the Abarth 500 joined it. Abarth had a pulse again.
The Abarth 500 has led to many variants, hard-top, soft-top, a variety of engines and power outputs, body kits, limited editions, the lot. It’s just what a company wants, a popular car that people can personalise and which acts as a mobile marketing billboard for the company.
Then last year the Abarth 124 Spider came along, proving that a spider and a scorpion could be a good mixture. Based on the Mazda MX-5, the 124 Spider has given Abarth a big dose of income, and has helped the sales figures keep heading in the right direction.
In 2015, before the Spider, the sales doubled in the year and they’re still angling upwards nicely. More FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) dealers holding the Abarth franchise, more cars, more tuning kits – more customers.
This is very much an Italian brand, where emotion and engineering have a hug and go out for a stylish dinner. The Abarth headquarters is a purpose-built gleaming thing, the Officine Abarth, which is next door to Centro Stile, the main design studio that encompasses the European brands within FCA. It’s also the home to Mario Alvisi, the new head of operations.
He oversees new design, a workshop tuning cars and another workshop where classic Abarths are restored. So far they’ve restored about ten, and it’s a way of keeping values high and showing commitment to that brand. The customers certainly show commitment, which is why there is now the Scorpionship. Alvisi explains what that is: “Interest in Abarth was growing, so we opened the Scorpionship 16 months ago and gathered 100,000 people through social networks for events, track days and technology workshops. We want to put people in the cars and in touch with the history, and we need people to get on track with the cars. If you don’t drive an Abarth, you won’t understand.”
It seems more and more people are understanding, but everyone is keen to find out what comes next for Abarth. Alvisi smiles but won’t say. One thing is for sure, the Abarth brand is alive and well. As he says: “Where there is passion, there is a community across the brand.”
But perhaps he’s giving us a clue to where the brand may be headed. “Iconic brands need something that goes directly to your gut. It’s about heritage, but it’s also about the present.” And indeed the future.