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Robert Zehner
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This month’s Car & Driver is the 2019 model year preview. They report that the 500e will be “unchanged” for 2019 - meaning same styling, same battery capacity, and there WILL be a 2019 model. Just getting ahead of the inevitable rampant speculation and misinformation from salespeople.

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My wife and I test-drove a Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid today. It's the cousin of the 500e, with a 16kW battery that enables 30 miles of all-electric driving before the gas motor kicks in. It even uses the same 5-light charging display in the dash, but in blue instead of orange. They are just starting to arrive at dealerships. The best thing my wife had to say was that it drives just like her current Honda Odyssey. We would have considered buying one, but the dealer wanted $5,000 over invoice, so that was a hard pass. We will check in again in a few months when deliveries have ramped up.

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For those interested in buying your car after the conclusion of your lease, I have an interesting story to relay from a co-worker. His lease expired a few months ago, but his Fiat Access continued to work. He watched as his car moved from the dealer to a lot in Hayward that appears to belong to Manheim Auto Auction. It then showed up in the Central Valley. He searched the address and found that it corresponded to a used car broker.

He called up the broker, and asked if the car was for sale. Turns out, it was -- the broker had bought it for a client, but there was a little bit of fender damage, so the client didn't want it, and the broker was looking to get rid of it. My co-worker was able to buy back his own leased car for less than $7k, including delivery back to the Bay Area.

It looks like almost all of the off-lease cars in the Bay Area go through the Manheim auction. It's a closed auction, open only to licensed dealers and brokers. BUT - if you find a local auto broker (stop by any used car lot), you could probably get them to look out for your car's VIN and pick it up for you. Last I heard, cars were going for $4500 or so at auction, so you should be able to get a car for $6500 or so; it's an easy $2k profit for the broker. (http://www.autoblog.com/2016/12/30/ultra-cheap-fiat-500e-evs-about-to-hit-used-car-lots/)

I advise people against picking up used 500e's since there's really no way of knowing how reliable a given vehicle will be and we've all read and heard the horror stories -- but I would have no qualms about buying back my lease return, which was 100% trouble-free, if I hadn't decided to lease a different BEV to try out something different.

Hi folks, back for a final wrap-up on my 500e lease return experience. After a lot of back and forth on the wear and tear warranty, I learned that Capitol Fiat never activated the policy on my car, even though I paid for it. I had already badgered Chrysler Finance to remove the charge for the tire replacement from my end-of-lease bill, so I asked Capitol to reimburse me for the warranty cost. I got the check in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

The other issue is that I kept getting renewal notices from CA DMV. After a lot of research, it turns out that the car doesn't transfer out of your name until it gets re-sold. As of a week ago, my car was still sitting on the lot at McKevitt in Berkeley, so I guess I just have to wait until they sell it ...

The penultimate update on my Fiat lease: I have been chasing the mythical wear and tear warranty for a month now. Chrysler Capital directed me to the warranty supplier, who told me that they have no record of a policy for my VIN. I then called back the folks at Chrysler Capital Allegiance, and spoke with a very nice gentleman who, after hearing my story, decided to waive the charge for my tires. So -- that's another route that people might consider, it seems like the phone support people have some leeway to reverse fees.

Now I'm on to two more topics: first, chasing the dealer to find out if they actually ever filed for the insurance, and if not, giving me my money back; and second, making sure that they've sent the liability release to CA DMV, who are sending me delinquency notices for my registration. Sigh.

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Found my 500e up for sale in Berkeley! Note - the pic in the listing is NOT of my car, mine has the black air dam.

https://cargur.us/bFDwx

Some nuggets of information on the lease return: it was pretty much painless. I stopped in at Capitol Fiat, where they used a cell phone app to scan my VIN, and then did a quick walk-around of the car to check for any damage and verify that all the pieces were there (EVSE, inflator/patch kit, TomTom). The dealership rep then printed out a transfer form that I signed, he made me a copy, I handed over the keys, and that was that. I'm expecting to get a bill from the leasing company for the missing key, as well as the disposition fee, but nobody seems to know who will take care of crediting my account for the cost of the worn-out tires against my wear-and-tear warranty.

I also had some time to chat with one of the Fiat salespeople:

* All of the lease returns go to auction. Right now, there are a relative handful, but by year-end, there will be "thousands".

* Capitol Fiat buys some of the lease returns at auction to sell on their lot, they are turning out to be popular (they had a 2014 e-sport for $10k when I was there).

* Many of the auctioned lease returns are going to out-of-state dealers who have customers interested in the car. Fiat is apparently now making the e service training course available nationwide via Internet.

Welp, the Fiat 500e party is over for me. I returned my 2013 yesterday to Capitol Fiat in San Jose, same place I picked it up just three years ago.I will always remember this fun, quirky, and for me reliable little car, and all the adventures we had together.

* Our first (only?) 500e owners' meet-up in Saratoga with +Pam Araki, +Tom Donohue, +Toréa Rodriguez, +Barry Lacter, Jamie Moore and a few others -- followed by a spirited run up Route 9 and Skyline to Alice's with my wife and 2 kids in the car.

* A weekend trip from Los Gatos to Monterey with my ever-patient wife, which included a two-hour detour to Costco so that we could park and charge at the neighboring Monterey Fiat dealership.

* A 2AM drive home from Sky Park at SFO to Los Gatos, when I'd accidentally left the charging timer on and thus hadn't been recharged by the parking valet. I made it all the way home on 30% charge by cruising down El Camino at 25 mph and timing all the lights.

* Peeling out on turns and at stoplights pretty much everywhere

I'm not planning to leave the group, but I'm sure my participation will go way down now that I'm not an owner any more - as it should be.

My new ride: a 2016 i3 REX that I picked up from Weatherford BMW in Berkeley last Friday. It's a really different car from the Fiat, and the range extender is ... interesting. But that's a story for another time.

Happy motoring, folks!

Anyone have any luck with getting a replacement key made for their 500e? I've ordered a used key fob and key blank off of EBay, just need to get the key cut and the remote re-programmed ...
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