I checked out of the hotel and went out to the car, and there was a new sign on it, proudly proclaiming that it was a part of the Detroit to Nashville Fiat Freakout roadtrip. That was sure to get even more eyeballs than I already had.
My hair was a shaggy mess, so I decided to stop and get a haircut before I left Cincinnati; I wasn’t on any super-tight schedule, so why not? I did what any modern, connected person would do in that situation: Turn to Google and Yelp to find the best barber in Cincinnati. They didn’t let me down; Russ was a character and I got a good haircut for a good price.
It was interesting talking to him because he was excited and bewildered at all the business the internet brought him. Through a combination of SEO (a solid code foundation on his website), social media (Yelp and Myspace, in his case), and excellent follow-through (very good haircuts, and excellent customer service) he achieved success.
After the haircut, I got on the road and drove almost straight through to Nashville. When I arrived at the Music City Sheraton, it was like Fiat heaven. They were everywhere.
Here’s the interesting thing about the Fiat Freakout event: It has been going on for almost thirty years. Every year, a small group of Fiat owners and enthusiasts would meet somewhere to trade stories, show off their cars, and celebrate their like-minded community. Now that Chrysler has partnered with Fiat to bring the brand back to the US, the size of the group is sure to explode, as a new generation of American car enthusiasts becomes part of this community.
In the lobby of the hotel, a full-sized Fiat 500 was retrofitted to become what I call the “world’s most elaborate video game controller”. The (real) Fiat is hooked up to a giant screen which displays a driving game. The goal is to not race to the finish and get the fastest time possible; rather it is to get to the goal with the best fuel economy. The game is designed to show off the Fiat 500’s Eco:drive technology. I came in 26th place; clearly I need to work on my efficient driving.
Let’s talk about Eco:drive. It’s insanely cool technology. You download the application, and insert any USB stick into your computer, where the application copies some code to your stick. You then take the USB stick and plug it into the Fiat’s dashboard USB port. As you drive, the car records data and send it to the stick. When you’re done, you take the USB stick and plug it back into your computer. The Eco:drive application then downloads your driving data and goes into great detail about how you can improve your efficiency with smarter shifting and other tips. It’s truly fascinating.
The Fiat Freakout event itself begins today and goes through the weekend. On Monday, I’ll have my thoughts, impressions, and overall experience up on the Trademark blog. Ciao!
Update: Here are photos from the trip!