By on August 1, 2011

Fiat’s 500 is a tough vehicle to figure out. On the one hand, it’s got a lot of intangibles going for it: it’s got huge fashion appeal, it gets far better fuel economy than anything in the Chrysler Group’s US stable and it grabs attention like nobody’s business. On the other hand: the sales stink. Chrysler expected to move some 50k Cinquecentos this year, but after three full months of sales (only 500 special editions were sold in March), the 500 had moved fewer than 5,000 units through June (4,944, to be precise). Fiat has admitted that the 500 launch is “a tiny bit behind schedule,” and the first official ad (which I count as another positive intangible) is only just going live this week. It’s miles better than the glorified tourist bureau video that has since disappeared from Youtube, but can it motivate 45,000 hip young (at heart) things to buy into the next small thing? We’ll certainly be watching July sales with interest. But if Fiat doesn’t get the ball rolling towards New Beetle-style iconic status in the US, the 500 could go the way of the Smart: iconic, but for all the wrong reasons (namely a challenging combination of price and size).

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79 Comments on “Fiat 500: Icon In The Making Or Dead In The Water?...”


  • avatar
    Advance_92

    ‘Dead in the water’ is only in terms of US sales, I suppose. I would hope the factory that’s building 500s in Mexico is also expected to build other B/C sized cars for the US.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    I’d attribute this at least partially to awareness. If there hasn’t been a TV commercial for this thing until now, no one should be surprised that sales are in the toilet. Why would you expect to sell 50k units of a car that only readers of internet automotive sites would know even existed?

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      +1. I haven’t seen any ads for the car in this area, and I don’t know if any CJD dealers in western WA offer the Fiat 500.

      • 0 avatar
        Varezhka

        I don’t see as many of these cars as I have expected here in Seattle, nor have I seen any ads. There is a CJD dealer over in Kirkland that has a Fiat showroom, but the dealership experience definitely felt more “Chrysler” and less “MINI” which I thought Fiat was aiming for.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I just saw my first 500 in the wild in W. Wa last week, fresh paper plate in the window. Didn’t catch the plate area to see if there was any dealer ID there.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Yes, Fiat of Kirkland is open, there is supposed to be an Auto Nation dealer on Aurora Ave in Seattle but so far, no official anything from them and Phil Bivens who owns the Tacoma Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep dealer is about to open if they aren’t already in Tacoma and there is a Vancouver WA dealership, supposedly.

        Fiat of Kirkland opened a week ago Friday and are expecting to have their open house in the third weekend in July.

        Part of the reason for the slow sales has been slow dealership openings due to taking MUCH longer to get the studios built thanks to slow as molasses reactions from the building permit departments all over the country.

  • avatar
    Nick

    Based on TTAC’s review, I am not surprised. Apart from it’s distinctive appearance, it didn’t offer anything more in terms of comfort or performance than other small cars. So, basically allyou can do is sell it to trendy/short on brains types (of which there a great many in Toronto, but they already have MINIs).

    • 0 avatar
      sjmst

      1: They are selling
      Fiat is on track to meet targets, even with a delay in dealers getting up and running.

      “Fiat 500 sales (3,038 units) were up 68 percent versus sales during the previous month of June 2011 (1,803 units). Sales of the 500 are gaining momentum now that approximately 90 Fiat Studios are open, and enthusiastic new Fiat owners sing the praises of the car.”

      2: Fiat is not a Smart nor is it a Mini. It is something in between, and that fits a market that seems to be untapped.

      3: The Fiat 500 is not for everyone. Anyone care to name one car in the world that is?

      4: It is not just like any other car, no more than a Ferrari is just another sports car. Italian cars have negative connotations as to reliability. But they also have a mystique that other marques don’t. Fun, stylish, etc. If Fiat can solve the reliability issue, it then will most definitely have something other cars don’t have.

      5: I have one. It illicits smiles and waves more than any other car I have driven. I have put on 10,000 miles on it, and it has been as flawless as any Honda I have bought. Also rock solid at 65 MPH and I average 38 MPG.

      Of course, if you don’t like it, that’s fine too. See number 3 above.

  • avatar

    It would be a great city car. Better looking and much more fun than a smart, and shorter than a MINI. (One of my friends who is interested checked out the measurements.)

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Right if they can sell enough to make a little money, then they’ll be fine. I see it as strictly a city car too. If I lived in NYC or LA or Chicago or some other major metropolitan area I’d I seriously consider it. You know if I had enough money to own a second car for long distiace travel (Panther, large GM sedan, ect…) or my long distance travel consisted of driving to the airport in the Fiat, this would be a perfect car. As my only vehicle, no dice. (But I feel the same way about the smart.)

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    It’ll take a while, I think. The head of Chrysler’s Fiat effort definitely is to blame for this mishap. She didn’t seem to take seriously all the obvious problems that would result in a delay. Just said “it’s just a little bit behind, not a big problem” all the time.

    As for offering nothing more than trendy styling, hey, that’s a big selling point! Styling matters a lot in a decision to purchase a car, at least to most people. Many cars are bought mostly for styling reasons. As long as the little Fiat didn’t give too much away vs the less stylish competition, that is. And from the review, it doesn’t seem to.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The MINI was launched with a widespread product placement assault (ironically in the remake of The Italian Job), and a heterosexual American male can drive a MINI on American roads while still retaining most of his manhood.

    In contrast, the 500 was launched with little fanfare and may as well have CHICK CAR printed on its fenders (or at least on the American market versions of it, given how small the car is.) Market it toward women, and do it fast.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      What does it say that I’m a 3/4 ton truck driving guy and I like it? I’d love to have one as a third car for in town driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’d love to have one as a third car for in town driving.

        Have you bought one?

        It’s nice that people on websites say nice things about them. But unless they actually open their wallets and contact their banks to borrow the money to buy one, then it won’t do Fiat-Chrysler any good.

        This seems to be one of those cars that people claim to be cute and charming, before they head off to buy something else. It’s a niche car at best. The best uses of it are to try to use it as a lure to pull car shoppers into Chrysler dealerships, and to relaunch the Fiat brand in North America.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Pch, that was just a little snarky wasn’t it? Showing your true colors I think. Unlike you, I can’t afford a whole garage full of vehicles for every occasion. Must be nice to be able to do that, why don’t you share your awesomeness with us peasants? Must be nice to be you. And you wonder why I don’t like you, could it be because you aren’t quite as smart as you think you are?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        that was just a little snarky wasn’t it?

        I suppose that for someone who is as defensive as you are, it might seem that way.

        No, I’m being pragmatic. At the end of the day, the manufacturer doesn’t benefit from your accolades and goodwill unless you spend your money with them or get others to spend their money with them. That means that you have to either buy this vehicle or else be drawn to the automaker’s other products via the halo effect.

        It’s the same comment that I have for the EV lovers, the diesel lovers and all of the other lovers of cars that very few people want. If the best role that you see for this in your life is as a third car, but you can’t actually afford to have a third car, then how exactly does that help Chrysler?

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        pch, one last thing, by your standards unless you own a specific car being discussed, you have no right to discuss it here. You sure you want to go there? Don’t be so thin skinned.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        one last thing, by your standards unless you own a car, you have no right to discuss it here.

        I have no idea where you got that from, but I never even implied that.

        Do you like the Fiat 500? Apparently, you do.

        Are you going to buy one? It sounds like you won’t.

        If you can explain to me how Chrysler is supposed to profit from your unwillingness to buy their products, then I’d like to hear it. But I will repeat the point that your good intentions won’t generate their profits.

        Fiat is not going to reestablish itself in the US market if consumers follow your lead, and consider it to be at best as a third car. If enough of you aren’t willing to trade in what you’ve got and own one as a daily driver, then they don’t have much hope of selling them.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Pch101: Market it toward women, and do it fast.

      Is the company even marketing this car at all? I don’t believe I’ve seen one ad for this car on television. The only places I’ve seen the actual car have been at the Philadelphia Auto Show in early February, and at the Chryslers at Carlisle show in July. It’s an attractive car in “real life.”

      I don’t even recall seeing any on the road in either Philadelphia or Washington, D.C. – both of which should be natural markets for this car.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Is the company even marketing this car at all?

        There doesn’t seem to be much of that, as far as I can tell.

        The lack of marketing is a fair criticism. More and better marketing will probably help to sell more of them. (The comment about the slow dealer rollout is also a fair point.)

        But having seen the car in the flesh, I have my doubts that it’s going to compete head-on with the MINI, even if the marketing and distribution are optimal. It’s just too small.

        I’m not saying that Fiat shouldn’t try to sell it here, but the 50,000 unit expectation sounds to me to be about twice of what it should be. The MINI sells at a pace of about 50-60,000 units per year in the US, and I can’t see the 500 dethroning it.

    • 0 avatar
      Britspeak

      Pch101 — I’m not sure if you’re being ironic or serious.

      Even cars that are ascribed ‘chick-car’ status still sell about 45/55 guys/girls. Hardly a landslide, and frankly, I’ve never met a guy who was comfortable with his masculinity who gave rat’s ass
      what some marketing VP thought a real man should drive.

      And why is it ‘ironic’ that the new Mini was in the Italian Job, when the Mini was in the original?

      Also, I’m not sure if you got the memo, but actually if you want to see the men with small peepee issues, they’re driving over-sized SUVs with loud pipes. I thought everybody was already laughing at THEM, not the guy quietly driving the small car.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’m not sure if you’re being ironic or serious.

        A bit of both, actually.

        Even cars that are ascribed ‘chick-car’ status still sell about 45/55 guys/girls.

        The New Beetle has run about 40/60. But in any case, I would make a point of marketing the car to women, given its look and dimensions.

        And why is it ‘ironic’ that the new Mini was in the Italian Job, when the Mini was in the original?

        Because FIAT actually is Italian, and didn’t market it in a similar fashion.

        I’m not sure if you got the memo, but actually if you want to see the men with small peepee issues, they’re driving over-sized SUVs with loud pipes. I thought everybody was already laughing at THEM, not the guy quietly driving the small car.

        I think that you missed the moral of your own story, which is that the men in question still purchased the SUV’s. And car companies like to sell vehicles.

        I’ve never met a guy who was comfortable with his masculinity who gave rat’s ass what some marketing VP thought a real man should drive.

        Marketing people know better. They understand that self-image and aspirations help to sell cars. They divide consumers into categories, and then figure out how to best market to those groups who they believe they can reach and extract money from their wallets.

        My guess is that Fiat doesn’t have a raging hit on their hands with this. However, I would expect that they do have a chance to hit numbers that are good enough to help them to reestablish the brand in the US market, from which they had retreated after many years of building a poor reputation. If they can get young people to buy it, that would be a good start, and my guess is those buyers would skew female.

    • 0 avatar
      evan

      Pch101, you’re making my head spin. There is no connection to Fiats and The Italian Job, other than yes, Fiats are Italian… In fact, most of the movie (the remake) is set in the US. If it was named the Spanish Job, would that mean SEAT missed an opportunity to market as well? One has nothing to do with the other. The new 500 wasn’t even a gleam in someone’s eye when that movie came out…

      And yup, the VW Bettle is probably the most girl-ish car out there, complete with flower vase, so yup it also skews more heavily female, and is not a great stand-in for the Fiat.

      And actually, being a marketing person myself, only people like GM execs and others trapped in the last century think old-school advertising is going to make or break this car. Most research on traditional advertsing’s effectiveness shows, in fact, how little it provides on a ROI basis. A launch campaign, fine, but otherwise, ugh… money down the drain.

      The example of over-sized SUVs and the clear NEGATIVE statement it makes about the person driving it was apparently lost. Sure they sell to some, but they alienate as well. The great minds that brought you Hummer banked on this netting a positive outcome, and we all know how that ended up.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        There is no connection to Fiats and The Italian Job, other than yes, Fiats are Italian

        It was obviously a joke, FFS. Irony, and all that.

        The example of over-sized SUVs and the clear NEGATIVE statement it makes about the person driving it was apparently lost.

        No, I got it completely, and you did not. If I was going to market an SUV, I would market it to those who are inclined to buy SUV’s, rather than market it to the opponents of SUVs who aren’t going to buy them, anyway.

        As it turns out, many SUV buyers do like an assertive-looking vehicle, and it has made sense for the builders of SUVs to market them with styling to match the wants of that demographic. The fact that some of the rest of us (myself included) think that they look ridiculous makes no difference, as the styling wasn’t meant to appeal to people like me who don’t buy SUVs.

        I would market the 500 to those who are likely to buy it. I would not market it to those who aren’t likely to buy it. And while this may be the same size as the MINI and its general shape would make it appear at first glance to be a direct competitor to the MINI, its cutesy appearance makes it a lot more like a New Beetle than a MINI. And the New Beetle skewed heavily female, hence my point stands.

  • avatar
    mjz

    It’s not just a new car being introduced, but a whole new dealer network too. I think the 500 will be very successful once the full dealer network is established. When sales started in March, they had what, something like 40 dealers instead of the 125 that were supposed to be up and running. They were way to ambitious thinking that all of those dealerships could be up and running in such a short period of time. The 500 is a worthy competitor, and will be able to establish itself in the market. It took the Fiesta a while too, and it had the benefit of being sold in thousands (not 40) of Ford dealerships when it was introduced

  • avatar
    mjz

    I have to disagree about the “chick car” comment. I would say I have seen an even split of male vs. female drivers so far.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I would say I have seen an even split of male vs. female drivers so far.

      You’ve seen a lot of these on the street? I think that I could count on my hands those that I have seen on the road, and still have fingers left over.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I saw one yesterday for the first time. Seeing a new FIAT on the road in the US is a bit startling. I don’t like the look of the car, it tries to be a VW bug to me and looks like a rounded off Smart.

    Good luck with all this, after all it’s FIAT’s money. Except for what taxpayers fronted to make it possible.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I can’t recall ever seeing a 500 commercial. Maybe some advertising might help.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    Lets see, too small, too slow, too many boring colors, too jumpy a ride, too expensive, too Fiat/Chrysler, too “different.” It has too many “too’s” going against it. If only it were a little more sexy, like the Mini. You find few people who don’t like the Mini, but lots of people don’t care for the 500. For the price, you can get a much bigger car which will get almost as good gas mileage and a better ride and proven reliability…and what’s with the color choices?!?! Where are the flashy small car colors. Brown…really…military green?

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      Fourteen color choices is not enough for ya? And with red exterior you can get up to 5 interior seat colors! Show me another vehicle available in North America with that many choices at the same price!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I haven’t seen any in the Cincinnati area yet. When my wife and I sat in one at our recent auto show, she said it reminded her of a old VW bug. After looking about in the cabin, I had to agree. I assured her that the 500 has a working heater, though, not to mention A/C!

  • avatar
    SMIA1948

    FIAT’s only hope for the 500 in the U.S. market is to get the Abarth version (140-170 bhp, 6-speed manual) here ASAP. The regualar FIAT 500′s gas mileage is too low for it to appeal to the “save gas” crowd. If it were possible to Federalize FIAT’s European “Twin Air” 2-cylinder engine, this might help.

  • avatar
    mjz

    …too many boring colors?

    The 500 offers FOURTEEN color choices, that’s almost double what you can get with other cars.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Chrysler has done a pathetic job in pushing this car, as if they’re embarrased by it.I did not realize it has been available all this time already, needless to say it should be a loooong time b4 I see one around these parts. It took 6 mos before I saw the 1st Fiesta out in the street.

  • avatar
    mjz

    They are waiting until the dealer network is more established. Why advertise it when you can’t find a dealership in the area? They are not going to do a national ad campaign with only 40 dealers (now over 70 I think) dealers up and running.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I agree, it’s way too early to be calling the 500 a flop. With setting up the dealerships taking longer than the original, very optimistic predictions, Fiat was wise to hold off on the advertising. Let’s see where they are in a year.

  • avatar
    mjz

    They do need to tweak the trim packaging a bit. Currently, and surprisingly, 50% of buyers are going with the stick, but you can only get the top Lounge trim with an auto. That’s a goof. And why no Convertible in the Sport trim?

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I live in Florida and haven’t seen one yet. Honestly, I don’t understand what the big deal is. To my eyes, it is not an attractive car. I’ll take the new Beetle over the 500 every day of the week.

    It’s definitely better than a Smart (but that’s not really saying much).

    I too agree its a city car but only for cities have dense urban centers where street parking is at a premium.

    I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be driving this thing on the super speedways (I mean highways) in and around Los Angeles (or Miami for that matter).

  • avatar
    Redshift

    Only anecdotal, I know, but there must be a big difference between the US and Canada for these. Possibly another example of Canadians typically buying 1 class smaller than the US?
    I figured these things were a hit. There has been heavy advertising in Canada for them for a couple of months now.
    I live in a reasonably sized city by Canadian standards, but small by US (Halifax, Nova Scotia) and I saw my first one of these in the wild (parked on the side of the road in my neighborhood)a couple of months ago, and I’ve probably seen a dozen of them running around here. The dealership, which shares space with a Chrysler/Dodge dealership (with a separate entrance) has about 20 of the things on the lot.
    My girlfriend really likes them. If/when the Abarth version comes over, we might look at one as a replacement “toy” for her current Spicy Orange MazdaSpeed Protege as she likes the bright coloured fun cars.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    I’ve seen quite a few in the Toronto area, including convertible. I’ve seen ads on Canadian TV too. It’s a perfect city car with four seats (unlike smart), but too small for me (6’4″).

  • avatar
    George B

    A Fiat 500 was one of the Enterprise rental car options when I dropped off my car for some body work. Ended up with a Chevy Cobalt, but the other undesirable slow selling car choices besides the 500 were Chevy HHR, Jeep Patriot, and Chevy Aveo. The lone 2012 Ford Focus stood out like a hot blonde in a room of homely heifers.

  • avatar
    Dipstick

    It says that you have good taste and feel secure about your sexuality.
    I think in general the american male consumer with his buying decisions has demonstrated having problems with both.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Wife saw the first commercial for the 500 and was in love immediately. Then asked who makes it. I said Fiat and she looked at me like I had gone crazy – what’s a Fiat? They’ve got a big mountain to climb here. But its cute and sometimes they all it takes to sell something. Wife already figured it out: its another Smart – small, cute, but no fun to drive. They should have offered the Abarth edition from day one.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    One might think that a company that left the US market decades ago under a cloud of quality doubts would make damn sure that their re-entry is not only competitive in terms of build quality, but that it would be one hell of a bargain to boot. But no.
    That said, I will note that here in car-conscious SoCal, I have seen many more 500s (maybe 40 or so) than Chevy Volts (3).

  • avatar
    mike978

    I don`t understand the premise of the article. If the car sold close to 5000 in June then that is 60000 a year (simply extrapolate). Some sales will decrease due to early adopters having bought it already but then more marketing would expand the number of customers open to this car. Personally I don`t see it beating the MINI but hey predictions on this site don`t always come true (i.e. Jetta and 2008 Focus).

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It is the calendar that is tripping you up. April and May come between March and June, leaving only 8 more months for a one year sales total. Something in the 15,000 to 18,000 range isn’t 60,000.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Less than 5000 total through June so that’s only ~1500 cars per month or about 15,000 cars this year.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      You are misreading the article. 5,000 500s were sold in 3 months THROUGH June, not IN June(in other words, 5,000 500s were sold total from April, May, and June, plus an additional 500 in March)

      If that pace stays constant (which i’m sure it won’t, it will probably increase as more dealers open and awareness grows), then that is only about 20000 cars a year.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    My aunt and uncle, who love crummy european cars(they just got rid of a Cooper S leaving them with a Jetta and a GTI), were on a waiting list for a Fiat 500 until recently. They finally got to drive the car and decided to bail. Product could be the problem.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Here in The Capital of the Free World, I have seen exactly one Volt and one 500. I’ve seen several “Stupids” which are the answer to a question no one has asked: “Do you want a two seater with less cargo capacity than a sports car that looks like a motorized infant stroller and gets — for its size — mediocre gas mileage?” But, around here — given the superior education of most of our population — call something “Smart” and they can’t resist.

    Seriously, I think Chrysler/Fiat just needs to spend some money advertising this car. It’s not as precious as a Mini, but seems to be more of a viable 4-seater (at least the equal of the Clubman and way better than the original). It seems a little smaller than the new, New Beetle. I suppose the question is, in the U.S., what’s the minimum size threshold for a car? In Europe’s past, there were certain cars, popular in Europe, that never met that threshold here, most notably the original “500″ and the slightly larger “600.” The minimum seemed to be about the size of the original VW Beetle.

    And, it’s probably worth noting that few U.S. cities have a dense urban core as is common in Europe, where these kinds of cars make the most sense. Also, since the time of the original “invasion” of the U.S. by small European cars (the 1960s), the Interstate Highway system has become much more ubiquitous and concomitantly, the really small car much less suitable as a general-purpose vehicle. I can tell you from personal experience, that driving the original VW along a two-lane highway at 55 mph (typical speed limit: 50) was not a terrifically unpleasant experience. However, driving it on a 65-mph speed limit Interstate was another matter. Not only could the car barely maintain that speed, but everyone in it was acutely aware of the twitchy handling and susceptibility to cross-winds.

    Even in an adequately-powered car of that size, it is difficult to keep the “perceived speed” from being excessive, given the problems of noise insulation, a free-spinning small displacement engine, susceptibility to wind shockwaves from passing trucks, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      “Do you want a two seater with less cargo capacity than a sports car that looks like a motorized infant stroller and gets — for its size — mediocre gas mileage?”

      It always surprise me that my minivan can get 25 mpg on the highway but a car that can fit inside the cargo area of the van can’t do twice that. I look at these cars that rave about their low 30′s epa ratings and think so what? I’m giving up 66% of the interior space and I pick up 25% in mpg. Doesn’t seem like a fair trade and I imagine most American’s think the same. So you’re left with only people who actually like small cars buying the non-cheap small cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      Cute is stupid? I know more than a few people who like it because it’s cute and who are well aware of its drawbacks. I can’t say that something like a Smartcar that gives a lot of emotional pleasure to someone is something stupid.

  • avatar

    this car is way too expensive. It is all about image, nothing more

  • avatar
    tetrapyloctomy

    I’ve seen no press for this car at all, which is a shame as I’d much prefer these zipping around Philly than all of the SUVs. If we still get a 170 hp-ish Abarth I may very well pick one up and daily-drive it. Shame to relegate the Subaru to winter-only, though.

  • avatar
    AaronH

    Americans just don’t want the “runt-mobile” look…Not even the women are that weak.

  • avatar
    v65magnafan1

    Fiat 500 sales in Canada for April were 159,942.

  • avatar
    Szyznyk

    My boss bought one, but he’s a 60 year old Top Gear-watching eccentric and that group isn’t exactly a marketer’s dream. I like to park my Grand Marquis next to it.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    Don’t know what the physical layout is, but from the Web site it looks as if the Fiats are to be sold in separate stores called “studios.” Wouldn’t this go against the idea of transferring some Fiat coolness, if that exists outside Italy, to Chrysler?

    Also, in San Diego, the only such studio is in Carlsbad, the last far northern exurb before Camp Pendleton. Folks up there, who have to go on freeways to get almost anywhere, probably aren’t looking for city cars.

    And finally on a word-nerd note, shouldn’t the plural of Cinquicento be Cinquicenti?

    • 0 avatar
      jimbo1126

      I walked by the Fiat 500 studio in The Woodlands, Texas today. It’s located in a mostly walking retail center and very hard to find. I didn’t even know it was there until I saw a lone 500 parked out front. I peered in the window: there were a few more inside, and they all had screaming aftermarket graphics on them, and probably a second sticker. Not an appealing car in person. At all.

  • avatar
    lostjr

    Minis and Smarts are thick in San Francisco because of the tight parking. Nearest 500 dealer is 30 miles away in a suburb a San Franciscan is not likely to visit.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    It may have Iconic status in Europe, but there were never many of the original 500s rolling along the highways and byways of the USA. Very few Americans, even if they are my age or older, have ever seen an original 500 “in the flesh”. Most younger people won’t have a clue what makes this “retro”. If you want to sell a car based, partly, on retro styling, it’s good if most people knew of the original and had fond memories of it.

    By contrast, almost everyone, of every age knows what the original Beetle looked like. That doesn’t mean everyone likes the Beetle (new or old), but at least everyone understands where the New Beetle lines come from.

    I kinda like the styling, but I tend to see the original in it when I’m looking at it. If I didn’t know of the original I’m not sure I’d be as taken with the new version. It’s cute, but not that cute. I can see people preferring a Beetle or a MINI for the styling alone, and there are plenty of other reasons one might prefer a Beetle or MINI – or a Hyundai.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    About colors.

    Someone said most of the choices were boring. I think he’s right. The fact that there are 14 color options doesn’t automatically overcome the fact that many of the choices are boring or duplicate.

    Silver is boring.

    White is boring.

    White Pearl is boring, and to me it looks silver, which is boring. But white can be pleasant, if not exciting, so I’ll give Fiat credit for one white, but not both.

    I’m not a fan of black but it’s not an unusual color choice. Fiat gives us two blacks Espresso and Nero. They are visibly different, but close enough that one is a good substitute for the other. Let’s subtract at least on of them and call the other pleasant.

    Gray is boring.

    I’m not a fan of the frumpy ’70s, have a nice day, brown that Fiat calls Mocha Latte. A boring color.

    I like both greens, but then, I like all greens. I can see that “normal” people would not think either of them exciting. But one is somewhat light and the other is quite dark, so at least they are genuinely different greens. If you really cared about the color of your car, one green would probably not be a good substitute for the other. I’ll give them credit for both.

    There are two reds. I prefer the Ruso Brillante to the standard Ruso, but I don’t know that there is enough difference to make the choice matter. They are close enough that I could take the Russo and not be unhappy. I can only give them credit for one red.

    So basically, the 500 is available in Red, Blue, Orange, Yellow, Light Green, and Dark Green. These are the only 6 colors offered that could even remotely be termed non-boring.

    I’ll allow that cars can be pleasant in White or Black, so we’ll say two pleasant colors and six non-boring colors.

    So, nearly half the color choices can be eliminated as boring, or duplicate.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      The nicest yellow I have ever seen on a car is Goldwood Yellow, as used on my old 1964 Chevy I owned eons ago. All other yellows either look faded or like a school bus.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    http://www.kaiserwillys.com/willys_overland_paint_colors

    If you scroll down to 1958-60 colors, you’ll see that even the rugged workhorse jeep used to be available in more colors than the Fiat 500.

    I’d probably pull out the plantation white as not being different enough to justify the offering. Other than that, there is really no duplication.

    The Ivory is genuinely different from the white.

    A lot of greens (too many?) but genuinely different greens.

    Two very different yellows.

    Red, Blue, Orange, and Black.

    Rosewood metallic, which is leaning to the maroon end of the reds.

    Coral Mist and Tropical Rose. You might not like them, but you can’t say they are boring.

    Let’s face it, today’s automakers just are not giving us much in the way of color.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    When they decide to start marketing it, they need to call it the “Cinquecento”

    I just love saying that word….cinquecento…

  • avatar
    MLB

    I live just a couple of miles from Van Nuys Blvd. out here in L.A., where one of the larger Fiat ‘studios’ is.

    Since it first opened a few months ago, they have had about 50 different 500′s on the lot at all times, of all colors and models.

    I actually had a Fiat once – a 1971 124 Sport Coupe – and it literally and dangerously fell apart in many ways while I was driving it.

    I got it as a fixer-upper and I tired to fix it up as I went along, so I guess I was asking for it; but when it ran, it ran great – (famous last words).

    So I have a natural interest in the company, at least to that degree.

    And so I went to the dealer on a couple of different occasions to check ‘em out.

    I found several that were open when the dealership was also open, and, not especially wanting to face a salesperson, I kind of dodged my way around and sat in a few of them just to get a pure first impression.

    And although the thing really is tiny, I was very surprised at the interior size – at least up front – and the apparent solidity of the car.

    I’m a bit over 6 ft. and there was plenty of room in the driver’s chair. And the seat is high off the floor, giving good visibility all around.

    Also, the door closed with a very firm clunk that seemed more befitting a Mercedes than a Mexican/Italian car, for whatever that’s worth.

    But until very recently I had yet to see a single 500 on the roads around here, and everyday I see any number of Minis and even Smarts.

    But I actually saw two Cabrios on the same day and in the same general area here in the valley – both with young female drivers – so maybe things are starting to pick up a bit for Sergio & Co. I also saw one near Marina Del Rey last week.

    I would certainly like to see the car succeed, and I’m sure that the new Fiats have nothing in common with the old rust buckets of yore as far as their structural integrity goes.

    But it is a somewhat silly looking thing, and for a while I thought I might want to have the Sport model, but after seeing the other ones on the road now, I fear that I might suffer from buyer’s remorse quite early on, and so maybe I would be better off with a Mini after all.

    (the high-powered Abarth version might be worth waiting for, but according to the one salesman I finally did question, that will be at least a year from now and the take will be around $30,000.)

    50,000 units a year. . .?

    That seems like a stretch right now, and they may have over-estimated the appeal of the car in the same way that Smart did.

    Fiat needs to have itself taken seriously if its grandious plans are to play out, and this dinky little car might not put them back in the public consciousness in the positive way that they might have hoped it would.

    It’s a lot easier to sell bulk numbers of something this small in Europe or anywhere else in the world than it is in the US; and while the Mini has certainly made it here, the Fiat seems about a half-size smaller, and the Mini brand had a good pedigree going in – the opposite of what Fiat is facing, at least to the older set like me.

    But I realize that someone like me is not the target demographic, and some of the youngsters that I saw on my excursions to the lot were very excited about the cars, and one spiky-haired dude was briskly phoning someone and loudly proclaiming that he would own one, and soon. . .

    The car is cheap, but you can also get a pretty good base Camaro or Mustang now for not too much more than a loaded-up one of these, and you at least seem to be getting a lot more car for your money; and I see more of those low-end pony cars around now that gas is so high.

    But as long as the gas prices do continue to rise, so will the interest in micro cars, no doubt.

    and, by the way, as of this last weekend, the Van Nuys dealer now has three Smarts – presumably trade-ins – lined up in a row right out in front and strategically priced just a little higher than an entry-level Cinquecento.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Having test driven one of these, I find it a very fun little car and want one.

    From my readings on this car on various blogs, the demographics seem to be all over the map, mostly guys like me, middle aged and up and women too along with the young, it seems to appeal to MANY people of ALL ages.

    As it being a chick car, you gotta be kidding me.

    I’m working on being able to afford one soon.

    AS for the ad, I found it a pretty good start and we just now have 1 dealer in Washington officially open, 3 others not as yet with another one I think very close to opening soon.

    I’ve seen 2 of these in the wild and a week ago while checking out the one studio that’s open, a young couple had just bought one and came in to pick it up (a pearla while sedan), an older couple in at least their 60′s I think were going to buy the cabrio (in Mocha Latte no less) and it seems this dealer IS selling them and then I saw a dusty Prima Edizone drive in and back out.

    They ARE out there but I suspect they aren’t at enough of a critical mass to be seen regularly yet, at least here in Seattle but I’m just now in the past couple of months seeing more of the Fiesta, the Mazda2 and the Focus, most of which ARE the hatchback variants – and the Focus has just come out.

    I do have to agree, with re-establishing a new dealer network, things taking longer than anticipated etc, the Fiat is just now coming into its own as the dealers reach critical mass in being open.

    I think they will survive and thrive, but being a new marquee, it’s more of a challenge than it would be if simply a new model from an established make.

  • avatar
    SP

    I think the 500 is a nice car, but it may have done a lot better if it came here 3 or 4 years ago. I saw it in Italy at that time and it seemed fresh then. It’s a little behind the times now, I think.

    I also find the styling pretty feminine … but not in a good way. The back half looks okay, but I think they should have revisited the front end for the American market.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Um, let’s see. For July, FIAT sold over 3,000 500′s with only 70 to 100 dealers. Ford sold over 5,900 Fiestas with a couple of THOUSAND dealerships. I think FIAT is doing just fine, and wait until the other half of the dealerships are a going concern!

  • avatar
    Bryce

    The original 500 was a complete POS trading on non existent cachet isnt working VW and Mini are retro cars that embody cars people liked but the original 500 wasnt liked it was crap from day 1 markrting the new 500 by showing the awful original isnt going to sell to anyone who remembers Fiats of old.


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