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Oh, baby! Fiat nurtures continuity, looks forward to fresh start this spring

Larry Vellequette covers Chrysler Group for Automotive News

He might have been seduced by performance, but the bespectacled, latte-sipping actor from Fiat's Super Bowl commercial, "Seduction," seems to have settled down with a less breathtaking model.

In the new TV commercial, "Baby," for the Fiat 500, the actor driving the car, Matthew Rocheleau, is the pedestrian who was seduced in the brand's Super Bowl commercial by the Fiat 500 Abarth, as personified by Romanian supermodel Catrinel Menghia.

In the "Baby" spot, Rocheleau pilots a non-Abarth version of the Fiat 500 to pick up a friend and his baby on the way to a sporting event. At a traffic stop, the toddler gestures to an older driver stopped at a traffic signal and asks, in perfect Italian, "What are you looking at?"

It's the same line uttered by Menghia in the Seduction commercial.

Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez says the automaker "felt that for people that noticed, using the same actor made a nice continuation of the Fiat story. The guy who first noticed the Abarth has now added a 500 to his garage."

Fiat needs that kind of continuity. When March U.S. light-vehicle sales are reported on April 3, the brand is likely to tout a four, five or sixfold increase in monthly sales of the Fiat 500 subcompact over March 2011, the first month that sales were reported for the vehicle.

In February, the 500's sales hit 3,227 -- the model's best month yet.

But the March figures will mark the first time Fiat will be able to make a direct comparison with the previous year's results. The brand should rightfully mark the end of an often tumultuous first year and the fresh start of a second, this time complete with a more developed dealer network.

But if I can answer the baby in the back of the car, I think observers will stop "looking at" sales of the Fiat 500 when they no longer stick out like a sore thumb.

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