An Electric Personality: An interview with FIAT® USA’s Brett Giem PART 1

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  Ever since the announcement of the release of the new FIAT® 500e*, our dedicated fans have asking for more details on our first all-electric version of the FIAT 500. First off, we love the fact that our fans are so excited for the all new, all-electric 500e. Secondly, we’ve heard the clamors for more information about this innovative new 500 offering and are ready to deliver. FIAT Backstage recently spoke with Brett Giem, who is our chief engineer on the 500e program.  Brett was involved in defining the program and now offers some of his insights on the FIAT 500e. Read on for part one of our two-part interview with Brett. FIAT Backstage (FB) – Brett, thanks for taking the time to chat with us about the new FIAT 500e. But before we dive into giving fans an inside look at the 500e, what can you tell us about the need for alternative-energy vehicles?

Brett Giem (BG)It’s my pleasure to have the chance to talk directly to our fans! To answer your question, alternative-fuel vehicles play a big role for FIAT USA. Being eco-friendly is a main pillar of our brand, and we are known worldwide as producers of efficient, Italian-designed products, and the 500e serves to further that effort.

FB – Now, many potential customers might look at the FIAT 500e and think, “Oh, it’s just another EV.” What do you feel the 500e brings to the table that hasn’t been seen on the EV market before?

BG – We looked beyond making an EV on the 500e program. The 500e was designed from the beginning to be first true to its FIAT 500 DNA of “simply more.” Keep it simple and honest. Keep the driving experience spirited and fun. The result is a great car first that’s an EV second.

FB – Now, as part of working on the 500e project, you had the chance to use the 500e as your family car for a while— tell us about that time and what you think potential customers, who may be cautious of an EV purchase, should know about the 500e to alleviate any worry.

BG – Here’s the scene from the first time I used a 500e to deliver my three kids to school: My 6'3" 15-year-old jumps into the front passenger seat, while his 5'11" brother and nine-year-old sister look on from outside. I size up the situation and say “figure it out.”

A brief pause, then my 15-year-old jumps out, tips the passenger seat forward to let in his sister and brother. As he reclaims his front seat he asks his brother how far he can put the seat back. They settle on ½ inch of knee clearance for each. It has been exactly the same for eight months of commuting. We talk about the day and plan the evenings just like we’d do in any other car — except we’re sitting a little closer together. (Which is not a bad thing!) The point is that the 500e easily becomes part of your life and you can adapt to it just as easily.


FB – Well it sounds like you had no problem fitting the 500e into the busy life of you and your family. Since you spent so much time with the 500e, can you describe the behind-the-wheel experience for our fans? How does it compare to a traditional motor vehicle?

BG – In every instance where we made a decision on how 500e feels when driving, we first looked to the 500 Lounge (gas version) and copied it to ensure 500e had a familiar feel. That being said, there are three key differences that a 500e enjoys vs. gasoline-powered vehicles.

First, the torque! After a brief ramp-in to keep rubber on the tires, 147 lb-ft of torque is available at launch, making the pull off the line a great reason to grin. The torque stays with you at city driving speeds, making 500e “tossable” in and out of traffic.

Second, the handling! The battery placement in 500e lowers and balances the weight distribution, making the car feel very connected to the road. This helps make the driving experience confident and matches very well with the launch torque. 

Finally, it’s quiet! No roaring engine, no shifting gears; low road input and wind noise. I have to use the cruise control to make sure I’m not exceeding local speed limits. The car is so smooth and quiet that its speed can be deceptive.

Check back soon for part two of our interview with Bret Giem! In the meantime, if you’re looking to discover for yourself just how cool the new 500e is, head over to to find out if the 500e is a perfect match for you. What aspect of the 500e has surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments below!    

*The FIAT 500e is only available in California

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© 2012 FCA US LLC, FIAT, FIAT 500 POP, and ABARTH are registered trademarks used under license by FCA US LLC.

Privacy Policy Copyright Contact Us

© 2012 Chrysler Group LLC, FIAT, FIAT 500 POP, and ABARTH are registered trademarks used under license by Chrysler Group LLC.