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.


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.


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. tucsnad

    In a couple years we will have some new laws on the books! (BCWD) NO BREWING ESPRESSO WHILE DRIVING 🙂 How will the milk keep from spoiling and how will you refill the coffee and milk and water? I can just picture it happening now with some idiot hitting some pedestrian or smashing into another vehicle or something because the driver was too busy pouring out an espresso.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • julsbd

      Espresso doesn't have milk – that would be a different drink. And since it can only brew when at a stop and otherwise stays locked in place. I imagine that the water can only be refilled when at a stop as well.

      July 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lindaluttrell

    And we had thought TEXTING and driving was a bad idea...

    July 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • tucsnad

      If you live in a state where there are toll booths imagine how blocked up traffic will be because its a chance to brew some coffee.

      July 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |

    I bet next year's model will include a toaster!

    July 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • tucsnad

      Screw the mortgage or rent payments, just live in your car everything you need will be there?

      July 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • everlearn

      It's not a toaster it's a panini press........

      July 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tucsnad

    Why not for back seat excitement install a condom dispenser in the car 🙂

    July 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • tucsnad

      I am being sarcastic here with this one.

      July 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Coflyboy

    oh, now we can be making coffee while texting.
    I have found that stopping for coffee is a good reason to get out of the car every once in a while.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Amused

    Next year Renalt should introduce a car with an oven, so that you can bake cookies while texting at 80 MPH!

    July 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dc

    This is not a new thing.... The Dick Tracy comic strip showed a villian having such a setup in his car way back in the 50's & 60's

    July 16, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. p

    a smart, well-adjusted individual with half a brain could pull off the trick of making a shot of espresso with the car at a full stop, drinking it, and moving on with their day. i think it's a great addition. one to two ounces of liquid in a cup will not cause the transformers-esque destruction everyone seems to be foreseeing. definitely safer than a shaken-up can of coke exploding in a car.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • iheartyou

      a "smart, well-adjusted individual with half a brain" will have the common sense to brew their coffee at home and actually focus on driving when they get behind the wheel of their car.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Fiat Owner

    CNN should have emphasized the this car will NOT be sold in the U.S. as American are too litigious to have such an option. And my opinion is that Americans are generally horrible drivers with too many distractions as it is.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • westernpa25

      The 500L will be sold in the US market, However the coffee option most likely will not.

      July 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steve Johnson

    Will the car have "remote start" and "remote brew" so when it's 20 below out, your car is warmed up and your brew ready. How about a cold water tap so you can cool it down to drink it before you get to work.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. kenwilley

    Lavazza is not the Starbucks of Italy. For one Lavazza makes a good espresso.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom

    I'm going to hold out for the version that lets me do my laundry while driving.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. angelo

    Fiat should try and do the simply thing to draw in customers. Just lower the price of the car, great little car but overpriced, as compared to all the other small cars on the market. You build a name first by convincing the public with affordable and reliable product, not a overpriced product because of a name. Remember Fiat, you did not have a great product years ago in the US, so why would you expect customers to view your product now when your price is high and your early reputation was not so great. You have a great car now, but again, your have overpriced a vehicle that once was not so received by the customer. Lower your price and watch the customers come in. My first car was a Fiat.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. iheartyou

    "...don't rush to judgement, you can't brew up a cup unless your car is stopped."
    Okay, help me out with this one. If I can't brew coffee unless the car is stopped isn't that the same as just brewing coffee before I leave home, or stopping somewhere for coffee? Coffee machines have timers – they have for years now – I just set my brewing timer for 15 minutes before I get up and VOILA!! coffee is ready to take with me as I'm leaving the house. But, hey, I guess I'm just old fashioned like that. I also still call people when I want to know how they're doing instead of facebooking them or catching up with them on twitter. 🙁

    July 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Howy

    Now all they have to do is build an actual car around that Fiat.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
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