The automotive world is full of interesting optional equipment - everything from ornate removable timepieces to cigar humidors have been built into lavish cars and concepts. Heck, even whale penis leather was a thing for a while - a very short while. Despite all that, Fiat has still managed to turn heads and inspire headlines with an option offered on a fairly modest car. The new 500L can be fitted with an integrated espresso machine.
Media relations is an interesting space. Every day there are hundreds of press releases that the media - and the public that the media serves - have exactly zero interest in. Some of these press releases don't seem worth the paper they're written on - even if they're not written on actual paper anymore. Then there are stories with very broad appeal that are buried in some obscure corporate paper or press kit. It's hard to fathom what companies are thinking at times.
News of a Fiat espresso machine, which has gotten ink flowing everywhere from automobile blogs to newspapers to internet forums, appears to be pulled from a three-sentence paragraph toward the end of a much broader press release about the new 500L model, an elongated version of the iconic 500 minicar.
"Finally, another world premiere is the brand new coffee machine created in collaboration with Lavazza," Fiat explains in the release. "The 500L is the first standard-production car in the world to offer a true espresso coffee machine that utilises the technology of the 'A Modo Mio' pods. It is perfectly integrated in the car with a deck designed expressly by Fiat."
That's all Fiat has to say about the option, and it doesn't really explain how it works. From the pictures, we can tell that the espresso machine is a narrow, portable unit that slides into a compartment in the center console. It looks very similar to a Lavazza version of the Handpresso Auto we saw a few months ago.
Although Fiat treated the espresso machine like a small aside, news of the option has caused a bit of an uproar. CNN reports that the option has been criticized by some US voices who claim it's one more potential contributor to distracted driving. However, the news source also reports that Fiat has clarified that the espresso machine can only be operated when the car is in park. Otherwise, it remains locked in its dock, where it shouldn't be much of a distraction.
The option also seems unlikely for the North American market. Fiat has said that no official decision has been made, but espresso doesn't exactly enjoy as intense a following in North America as in Italy and Europe. Auto manufacturers regularly offer different options for different markets, and the likelihood of an espresso machine in North America seems to lie somewhere south of any given diesel engine.
Fiat held an introduction ceremony for the European 500L earlier this month. The new car is expected to launch in North America next year.