Debate brews around espresso machines in new Fiat
Fiat shows the Lavazza espresso machine built and docked into a console in the new European model of the Fiat 500L.
July 16th, 2012
11:31 AM ET

Debate brews around espresso machines in new Fiat

Drivers love fancy technology extras packed in their car and Fiat is hoping their latest innovation may be the best yet - one that can save you a trip to your favorite coffee store.

But the car designers new innovative addition to their latest line, due out in Italy in October, is landing them in some hot water with some consumers concerned about it adding to a mounting list of things that distract drivers. However, the car maker says, don't rush to judgement, you can't brew up a cup unless your car is stopped.

Their new crossover model the Fiat 500L boasts a whole range of accessories, but the one drawing the most attention and perhaps concerns, is their built-in espresso machine. That's right. Forget your Starbucks runs, or trying to rush out the door to work with your homemade brew.  Instead, inside your console you'll find a "new coffee machine created in collaboration with Lavazza," considered to be the Starbucks of Italy.

"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," the company said in a press release. "It is perfectly integrated in the car with a deck designed expressly by Fiat."

A video put out by the automaker shows a cartoon character couple debating the choice of having to make a coffee run. But no longer!

"Do you want to take a break while flavouring the best Italian espresso coffee without stepping out of the car? With 500L even this will be possible!" the company touts on its Italian site. 

Passengers can brew on the road, filling the car with the sweet aroma of drink of the tired.

" It will be possible to enjoy ... inside a car the high quality, the unique taste, the body and creaminess of the true Italian espresso," the automaker boasts.

While it is certainly a first-of-its kind offering, the function has been met with a lot of criticism in the U.S. about concerns that drivers don't need another distraction while driving. Most of the focus of distracted driving campaigns have focused on texting, including a new set of public service announcement commercials from AT&T that show the fatal consequences of multitasking while driving.

So, when news of the coffee meets car collaboration hit the Web in the U.S., people on Twitter took the car company to task, noting that while we can't drive while texting in many places, it doesn't seem like a stellar idea to be making scorching hot coffee while taking your car to the road. It was unclear if those criticizing the idea knew the machine only worked while the car was stopped, a detail that was not touted on the car's site or in many media pieces criticizing the idea.

Even TV host Tom Bergeron weighed in on the idea, remarking that the innovative addition may be more dangerous than impressive.

[tweet https://twitter.com/Tom_Bergeron/status/224845319534424064%5D

And it prompted responses from others that wondered whether it would lead to lawsuits, similar to the infamous McDonald's scalding hot coffee debacle and concerns from auto blogs and writers about the safety of the innovation.

[tweet https://twitter.com/CineSportsTalk/status/224867954657984512%5D

But the automaker wants to make a few things clear in the wake of the sudden uproar about the espresso machine's safety. They say they've done the testing and they are sure their setup is safe for drivers.

"You can use it only when the car is stopped," Norman Winkler, the communications press officer for Fiat in Europe told CNN. "It's quite tiny and it has a docking station in which it remains locked. The quantity of coffee is much (less) than usual use in the cups in the states. Its espresso, it's very tiny."

And it's not even clear whether those who are outraged in the U.S. will even have to deal with the issue. Jiyan Cadiz, the spokesman for Fiat in the U.S., said it was too soon to say what features might or might not show up in the American model.

"We have not provided any product details at this time," he told CNN. "As we get closer to our own launch of the vehicle we’ll provide feature availability and specs and more context between the Euro cousin and the U.S. model."

soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Obama Mama

    I guess the elderly lady that had burned herself with the McDonalds coffee, and won a million dollar lawsuit was not a deterant. I think reading novels and texting while you drive should be done, along with your laptop to get the work done before you get to work.*sarcasm alert*
    Also putting on makeup, filing nails, and plucking your eyebrows.*Sarcasm again*

    July 16, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. it's about time

    and hurry it up with the grilled cheese machines in there too, will ya?

    July 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      lol.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Falcone

    Based on my experience with Fiat I suspect the coffee will suck also.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      Oh, I though the cars were suppose to be mechanically sound. Although my husband had one when we met, but it never was in working condition.lol

      July 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Meki60

    based on my experience with Fiat, it will fail to operate after about 2 uses.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BD

    The issue is how easily distracted people are not the number of disctractions. How about we tighten up driving tests or throw begginer drivers into a simulator and test their emergency response? This is one more example of coddling the useless, how about personal resposibility and the expectation of skill.

    If people can't drive well, don't let them. I don't care if their life depends on it, get bad drivers off the roads.

    Then again, the article specifically states it only works while stopped so the entire discussion is moot. The funnier side of it is; is it really a good idea to give American drivers any more caffeine?

    July 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Falcone

    Fiat, "Fix It Again Tony".

    July 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jorge washinsen

    Fiat needs to talk to McDonalds before putting that in a car.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jorge washinsen

    Probably be better off putting a ford or chevy in the car.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. barbara

    Maybe we wouldn't buy a fiat but if some other car company installed a small maker in the car, it would definitely influence my husband's buying decision.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Grumpster

    As someone who has earned a living owning a gourmet coffee shop, I find this to be one of the more ridiculous things I have seen in a very long time.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jorge washinsen

    Having been in the automotive business for ever you learn you can not make anything safe for some people.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Hmmm

    No officer, I wasn't about to drive drunk, I was just trying to make an espresso to help me sober up!

    July 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy©

    My opinion?
    If one can afford this car, one can afford to stop for a stupid coffee...espresso...whatever.
    I'm with Grumpster: ridiculous.
    Plus, the car is rather unattractive...

    July 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Obama Mama

    Yes I can but I may not spell it correctly.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DIGBY67

    sounds like something a fiat driver would like. Now, if they'd put a pizza maker in the glove box...well...

    July 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
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