Today’s leg was Detroit to Cincinnati, which is not really that long a drive. I walked out of my house at 8:15 in the morning and it was so wet outside that it looked like it had rained. Water droplets covered the Fiat 500, my windows, and everything else.
Alas, it was not rain, just insane heat and humidity.
I really wish it wasn’t so abysmally hot today—I wanted to drive with the windows down and the sunroof open. It wasn’t meant to be, however. The weatherman issued severe heat warnings, telling people to stay inside. Time to crank up that air conditioning to max.
Driving in early morning rush hour traffic wasn’t very much fun. I was excited when I finally got outside of Detroit and really had the chance to open up and cruise in 5th gear. I found the climate controls, the cruise control, and the radio all very intuitive, and relaxed and settled in for a few hours’ drive. The Fiat that I got has a particularly swank Bose sound system, with a subwoofer and Sirius/XM tuner. There are buttons for voice commands and Bluetooth, but I didn’t mess around with those. I tuned Sirius to Alt Nation and let loose.
It’s been a long time since I sat in an awesome car by myself with wind in my hair (albeit, A/C in this case) and too-loud music. The car just called for it, though. It was liberating and made me feel like a kid again. As I drove down the freeway, I got points, stares, and even someone taking a picture of the car. It’s new, unique, and very charismatic. People are drawn to it.
I stopped at the Ohio border to visit a homemade jerky store that I’m fond of. I don’t get down that way too often, and it’s unique enough to be worth a stop. It was about 9:30am and two locals were sitting outside a barber shop. The town, Luna Pier, has a very small-town feel. As soon as I parked, the two men got up and started walking towards me. They were older, so I figured maybe they’d say something negative about foreign cars.
To the contrary, they were both as excited as kids. “Oh wow, I heard of these, but I’ve never seen one!” “Look at the painted calipers” “That is a sharp logo!” “Chrysler is doing well to bring these here!”. They asked about the performance, the engine, they looked at the interior, and were far more enthusiastic about the car than I had assumed they would be.
It was a neat experience, and it told me one thing: Americans are ready for smaller cars. We got into a conversation about the size and efficiency. He said he was thinking a small car like this might be nice for his wife.
I got back on the road and stopped for gas outside of Dayton, where a man came up to me and asked if I was driving a Ferrari. I guess the new Fiat looks like it could be a Ferrari? I got a laugh out of it.
I finally arrived in Cincinnati, checked into my hotel and then headed over to the brand-spanking new Fiat Studio (Kings Fiat). They call their dealerships “Studios” and there’s a good reason for it—when you go in to buy a car, you pretty much get to design it custom to the way you want it. The first thing I noticed was how many color options were available. Then, I noticed that every single Fiat on the lot (and there were quite a few) was totally unique; either it had unique interior color combinations, or custom pinstriping in a variety of ways, or an Italian flag decal on the front quarter panel, or something that made it different from every car on the lot. The manager told me that there are so many possible combinations that it’s a pretty good chance there are no two Fiats on the road that are the same.
I’m beginning to wrap my head around the Fiat culture. The people who walk in the door to a Fiat studio are far more than just people who are looking for a car. They are already part of a community. They are fans, enthusiasts, family members. They walk in knowing more about the cars than the sales team. They want to be part of a lifestyle. The sense of community is overwhelming with these cars. You’re not buying a vehicle; you’re buying a passport into this enthusiastic group.
I have a feeling that by the end of this journey, I will be a part of the community too. Even if I never own a Fiat.
Update: Here is the photostream from the trip: