I’m embarking on a five-day roadtrip to Nashville, Tennessee in a 2011 Fiat 500.
The reason I’m doing this is because Fiat reached out to me and asked if I’d like to give my impressions of this tiny car while I check out the Fiat owners’ community at the Fiat Freakout event. Why they chose me isn’t perfectly clear, but it might have something to do with my experience with Chevy earlier this year when I was chosen as part of the Chevy SXSW Road Trip Challenge. Maybe it has something to do with my work on Icrontic, and the story I wrote there about Mopar. Perhaps it was my involvement with Tweetea, where I met Chrysler’s social media guru Mike Driehorst.
The point of that “Feather-in-my-cap” stuff wasn’t to brag. It’s to show that social networking works. Fiat wants me to be in this car because I will be honest, genuine, and tell them my thoughts. Have blog, will travel. They get exposure out of it, I get a neat experience where I’ll probably make some new friends, and have some neat memories to put into my scrapbook. Plus, I’ll have the confidence of being able to say, “Hey, Fiat chose me to write about their cars.” That stuff snowballs and turns into more opportunity. If I can share that success with our social media clients here at Trademark, then all the better.
I went to pick up the Fiat in Auburn Hills, MI (which, coincidentally is the home of Chrysler Group, LLC.) The car I get to drive is a dark silver, sporty little thing, with black checker graphics and a snazzy leather interior.
It’s a 5-speed manual; here’s where I embarrassingly reveal that I haven’t driven a manual since 2001 or so, when I had a 1985 Jeep CJ-7 that was built like a tank. It was like shifting a cement truck. I think I actually grew toned biceps from driving that truck for a half a year. So here, I have to get into this little sports car and pretend like I can remember how to drive a stick.
I stalled immediately upon backing up, which was no big deal except for the two people that worked at the facility who were annoyed with me in the parking lot. No worries! I’ve got this! I restarted it and lurched forward to the security gate and nonchalantly pretended like everything was A-OK while the guard filled out paperwork to release the car to me. Yep, I got this.
I got out of the parking lot and down the road, but I stalled again at the first red light. Now, here’s where I remember to tell you that I had my 13- and 12-year old sons with me. They were terrified. “Dad…” my oldest said dubiously. “You… uh.. you sure you know how to drive this…?” He was not at all confident. My younger son was silent as a ghost in the back.
The car behind me was irked, but I got ol’ bessie going again and realized that the next step was I-75, a major freeway. Did I mention it was rush hour?
Well, I’ll spare the details except to say that by the time I got home (40 miles later), I re-mastered the manual transmission, became a hero to my sons (very important), and didn’t damage the car in any way. Success!
Now that I’ve found my legs again, I’m ready to get this baby on the open road. The Fiat is tiny, zippy, and a ton of fun to drive. It’s very strange to get used to the “borders” of the car, since they’re so close to you, but it doesn’t feel strange now that I’ve spent a couple of hours in it.
I’ll update the TM blog, make sure to take lots of pictures and video, and try my best to share this fun experience with everyone. Wish me luck!
Update: Here is the photostream from the trip: