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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