Fiat begins outfitting 500 Abarth with six-speed automatic

Auto reinforced with more clutch plates, better heat treatment to handle higher torque.

Chrysler has announced that its Toluca, Mexico, facility has begun assembling the first 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth models outfitted with an automatic transmission.

The optional six-speed automatic gearbox is designed to make the Abarth series appealing to a wider audience. The move is likely aimed at bolstering sales in the US market, where very few cars are offered without an automatic as standard equipment or an option.

New for 2015, the Abarth automatic gearbox is said to have been reinforced with extra clutch plates and a more robust heat treatment to handle the 500 Abarth's 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, which produces 157 horsepower and 183 lb-ft of torque.

Drivers will be able to take advantage of a Sport mode, calibrated for an 'engaged' driving experience with fuel-cut upshifts, rev-matching downshifts, brake-assist downshifts, corner gear hold and fast-off gear hold.

"Fiat 500 Abarth sales increased more than 16 percent during this year, and we expect this sales success to continue with the launch of this new automatic transmission," said Fiat's brand head for North America, Jason Stoicevich.

The auto option will be available for both the 500 Abarth and its convertible counterpart.

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