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Greater L.A. Auto Show

Hard on the heels of its Los Angeles Auto Show debut, the ’12 Fiat 500 Abarth pulls out the stilettos.

Chrysler, which sells Fiat in North America, posts a spicy 59-second Abarth commercial on YouTube. It depicts an unsuspecting Gen X/Y nerd whose affections are hijacked by a statuesque Italian supermodel.

The woman berates him for leering. “What are you looking at?” she demands. Then she takes pity on him.

“Poor baby, your heart is pounding,” she says in Italian, before suddenly transforming into a shiny, black Abarth that rockets through city streets.

The ad ends with the tagline, “You’ll never forget the first time you see one.”

Though not actively promoted, the YouTube video garners more than 24,000 views some 24 hours after it is posted.

“Hopefully, it goes viral,” a Fiat insider tells WardsAuto, adding the auto maker is undecided about televising the ad.

Early reaction is positive. “Excellent advert Fiat,” says a poster identified as u1430. “Now you MUST play this on national TV!!”

Absent from the U.S. market since 1983, Fiat aggressively has been trying to make an impression with the 500 minicar, which is widely acclaimed in Europe. In addition to the coupe, which bowed in the first quarter, Fiat has introduced cabrio and Gucci-branded editions of the minicar.

But sales, which totaled 15,826 through October, have come in fits and starts as Chrysler dealers struggle to meet stipulations to distribute the 500. Those include establishing a separate salon to showcase the car.

The Abarth, originally missing from Fiat’s North American product plan, arrives with considerable expectations. Demand appears strong as dealers have been accepting orders, against Fiat’s wishes, since May.

Expected on U.S. dealer lots by the end of first-quarter 2012, the Abarth is the market’s first turbocharged application of Fiat’s 1.4L FIRE I-4 with MultiAir valve actuation. Equipped with two intercoolers, the 160-hp engine produces peak torque of 170 lb.-ft (230 Nm).

The base-model 500’s naturally aspirated FIRE engine makes 101 hp and generates 98 lb.-ft. (133 Nm) of torque.

Chrysler does not disclose pricing or fuel-economy ratings for the Abarth, which also features a unique analog turbo-boost gauge with integrated light-emitting-diode shift display.

Other key features are:

  • A specially tuned chassis with Frequency Selective Damping – shock absorbers that automatically adjust damping to match road or track conditions.
  • Lowered ride height.
  • Beefed-up rear suspension, larger brakes and wider tires.
  • A Fiat-engineered heavy-duty 5-speed manual transmission.

The sexy YouTube video already has created some competition with a planned campaign that reprises singer Jennifer Lopez’s endorsement of the Gucci-edition 500. Set to Lopez's song "Until It Beats No More," the ad debuted Thursday.

“Voiced-over by Lopez, (it) highlights the style, elegance and originality of the Fiat 500 by Gucci as Lopez drives through the streets of New York City,” Chrysler says in a news release.

emayne@wardsauto.com