Fiat Chrysler Automotive's Fiat USA division launched the Abarth performance variant here back in 2012 with ads that featured Charlie Sheen racing around the inside of a mansion, albeit with an ankle monitor.
Best not to try that at home. And you don’t have to if you’ve bought an Abarth and want to take it for a spin, literally. Instead you can do it at the track through a program the automaker launched in 2012 and has just brought back for 2014.
The program, “2014 Abarth Track Experience,” allows owners to experience ratcheted-up driving that tests the capabilities of the car. The price of the program is included in the purchase price for new buyers.
The experiential owner loyalty program visits several U.S. markets starting this week, giving owners a one-day performance experience at iconic tracks like Laguna Seca raceway in Salinas, Calif. With Chrysler providing the Abarths, owners get to do autocross, head-to-head challenges, driving dynamics and performance drive clinics, and finally, hot laps with pro drivers.
After having kicked off on Feb. 18 at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., the program visits Fort Worth, Texas; Fontana, Calif.; Angleton, Texas; Daytona Beach, Fla.; Millville, N.J.; Joliet, Ill.; and Englishtown, N.J.
Says Matt Davis, head of Fiat brand product marketing: "We choose exciting tracks that we know will be fun and challenging for our drivers, where they could really push the Abarth to the limit. We also take into consideration where many of our owners live and the accessibility of the tracks."
The programs are happening in strong Fiat markets. Davis tells Marketing Daily that most of Fiat sales occur in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Miami. "The three major Fiat brand markets are California, Florida and Texas and most of the Fiat 500 Abarth owners are located in these areas as well." He says that last year the brand sold more than 40,000 units in the United States, "which is a significant number considering the relatively small size of the segments in which we compete."
While the program is limited to owners, they can bring a companion, but that's it. Non-owners need not apply. Each day-long session accommodates around 75 drivers, per Davis.
He adds that that track experience was launched to generate enthusiasm, loyalty and brand advocacy among owners of the then-new Fiat 500 Abarth. "We feel that the more our customers know their car, the more they will love it and the strong positive feedback received from the participants confirmed that we were on the right path."