Hot hatches like the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth have long been the provenance of manual transmissions. Those cars are aimed at buyers who enjoy the engagement of driving, but it looks like Fiat may be revising its manual-only policy for the Abarth models.
According to WardsAuto, the Italian automaker is looking to broaden its audience for the hotter Abarth hatchback and upcoming convertible. Right now, the customer base for the hot hatch skews more to the male side and Fiat is hoping to potentially bring in more women with the addition of the drop-top 500C Abarth this spring. Fiat's North American president Tim Kuniskis told Wards that "I don’t think [the demographic mix] will change radically. I think when we’ll see more women is when we have the automatic, and we’re planning to add the automatic in the Abarth at some point, only because we’re getting that feedback from customers."
This won't be the first time a stick-only hot hatch added a autobox to appease customers: Mini made the same move with the Cooper S, adding an automatic transmission option in 2005. Fiat currently offers an optional six-speed automatic transmission on the 500/500C Pop and Lounge models for $1250. Elsewhere in the range, the new 2014 500L uses the same 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo-four as the Abarth and pairs it with a six-speed DDCT dual-clutch automatic.
Right now, the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth hatchback starts at $22,700 and the convertible will cost $26,700, (both prices include destination). We wouldn't be surprised if an automatic on the Abarth was a standalone option, like on other 500 models.
UPDATE: A Fiat representative could not confirm any future product changes to the Abarth line beyond the addition of the convertible model at this time.