Gone for more than 25 years, Fiat is back

Once upon a time, the nameplate Fiat was synonymous with sports cars. With cars like the mid engine drive Fiat X1/9 and the Fiat Spider Convertible, Fiat competed with other now gone European sports car makers like Triumph and Alfa Romeo.

Fiat left the American auto scene in 1984. Stringent U.S. pollution controls and America's growing love affair with SUVs and pickup trucks drove Fiat and most other European sports car makers out of the U.S. automotive market.

Now, Fiat is back. But it's not sports cars their manufacturing. Today's Fiat is not your father's Fiat.

Today's Fiat is the Fiat 500 and it is a subcompact. According to salesman Travis DuPont of Yark Fiat, the little four seater is growing in popularity.

"We have people from 18 to 70 and 80 years old looking at them," said DuPont. "People are buying them for second cars and for their primary transportation."

The Fiat 500 is an Italian inspired automobile, but its 1.5 liter power plant is made just up the road in Dundee, MI.

According to the manufacturer's sticker, the five speed Fiat 500 gets about 38 miles to the gallon.

Fiat reentered the American auto market when, in January 2009, they acquired 20 percent of Chrysler. The deal allowed Fiat access to Chrysler's dealership network and it provided Chrysler with a new product line.

Did you or your parents ever own one of the vintage Fiat sports cars?

Have you seen or driven the new Fiat 500?