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. Grumpster

    Well, you can certainly bet that some genius will find a work-around to the stopped vehicle premise of this thing. I love espresso to the point where I actually owned my own shop....but I find this just stupid beyond reason.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Java Junkie

    Here in Los Angeles, a stopped car just means you're downtown or on any of several freeways. Day or night!

    July 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Burbank

    Stupid idea.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. M

    Anyone seen the recent Suzuki Kizashi ad spoofing a coffee-maker in their car? Seemed ridiculous, didn't it? Now it seems prophetic...

    July 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. xfiler93

    just what we need. MORE DISTRACTIONS while driving. amazing.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buck

      Psssst, xfiler93...you may want to read the entire article before commenting next time.

      July 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jimmy

    ok let's assume it's safe. if i want a tiny cup of espresso, rather than pulling into a starbucks, i still have to find a place to pull over, stop the car, spill coffee beans or coffee grinds all over my car, wait ten minutes for the coffee to brew while draining my battery, and then face the danger of trying to sip scalding hot espresso while driving? that is SO MUCH BETTER than the hover cars we were supposed to have by now!

    July 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mlmcleod

    If the expresso machine can text the driver when its done brewing, then it'll be a hit. haha

    July 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. raven

    And for the drivers who aren't REALLY distracted, they offer a free blindfold.

    July 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mister

    If the feature becomes available in the US, I'm buying a Fiat next, instead of the other car I've been considering.

    July 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gary

    I just wish for one moment we as Americans would not complain about something for like at least a day,(a week would be better) but at least one day.

    July 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      oh my a "no complaining" holiday? Sounds good to me. Abe Lincoln invented Thanksgiving, I think we can make this stick!

      July 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. asdf

    First world problems: "I want an espresso...but I have to pull over first."

    July 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. asdf

    Sure, we'd have more distracted drivers, but nobody would be falling asleep on the road, right?

    July 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. stevefl00d

    Pouring an espresso shot while texting, smoking a cigar and steering with your knee at 80mph is challenging enough, but what if I want a cappuccino? How will I steam the milk?

    July 16, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • michael

      well i guess you can uhmm stick your uh frother in the milk and froth it like crazy

      July 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. michael

    whats next a car that gives a happy ending?

    July 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chuck

    Toyota is, of course, no willing to be out-done. Now, your rice burner can come with a rice maker accessory.

    GM has announced a new option to replace the glove compartment with a microwave oven.

    BMW's new option is also drawing legality questions: Bier und Brat.

    July 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
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