Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

Things just got a little more interesting in the Fiat showroom.

The ’12 Fiat 500 minicar affords some 500,000 buildable combinations by virtue of its 14 exterior color choices and 14 interior color and fabric combinations.

In late spring, dealers are expected to take delivery of the 500c – for cabrio – that features a power-retractable cloth top available in three colors.

Some might call this complexity. Fiat North America brand chief Laura Soave calls it “an added dose of sunshine and panoramic views at the push of a button.”

Fiat unveils the U.S. version of the car today at the New York auto show.

Stiffness is aided by pillars that arch along each side of the car like rainbows. Header shake is further mitigated by a cross-member hidden in the windshield assembly.

The dual-layer cloth top is activated with the push of a button, an operation that can be performed at speeds up to 60 mph (97 km/h). Random midway points also can be selected.

Available in black, beige and bordeaux, the roof folds neatly behind the rear-seat head restraints.

Earlier this month, Ward’s observed small fleets of the 500c undergoing testing in southeast Michigan. Administered by Roush, the testing puts thousands of additional real-world miles on production vehicles in an effort to improve the customer experience.

The 500c is the second of four 500 variants planned for North America within the next seven quarters. A performance-oriented Abarth-brand 500 is planned for first-quarter 2012, while an all-electric 500 is scheduled for next year’s fourth quarter.

U.S. 500 sales through the first quarter of this year totaled 500. But this is no coincidence.

A limited run of 500 “Prima Edizione” 500s was sold online before the regular production cars became available. They sold out in two hours to customers who plunked down, you guessed it, $500.

emayne@wardsauto.com