By on September 26, 2011

Under Penske management, the Smart minicar brand sold fewer than 6,000 vehicles last year, capping a sales decline that led Mercedes to take back management duties for the brand. And, according to the new folks in charge of Smart, there’s only one real problem with the brand: awareness. Or, more precisely, lack thereof. We’ve heard this song before from Smart’s new GM, but now Ernst Lieb, boss of Mercedes U.S.A., is picking up the tune, telling Automotive News [sub] that

With the marketing activities that we’re going to have, we’ll see some positive momentum. The biggest problem the car has right now: Nobody knows it.

Which, of course, is nonsense. Nonsense that allows you to appear aware of the sales problem without acknowledging a single problem with the product itself, but nonsense none the less. And Smart’s not the only micro-car brand that’s reaching for it either, as Fiat-Chrysler marketing boss Olivier Francois has the exact same excuse for Fiat’s weak start, telling AdAge

I don’t think we have a car problem; people love the car. I think we have an awareness problem.

Are Americans incapable of seeing, recognizing or being aware of anything that weighs less than 3,000 lbs? Or is it possible that there are a few things wrong with the Smart and 500?

Let’s start with Smart. The brand will spend between $25m and $35m on its new campaign, which includes the ad at the top of this post, in hopes of bringing sales up to about 10k units per year. But one has to wonder: what is the difference between the new “unbig. uncar.” ad and the old “Think Small” tagline? Smart swears that its JD Power data shows 50 percent of consumers are “unaware” of its brand, but of the 50% that are aware, how many don’t realize that Smarts are small cars? I’d guess none. Besides, Smart would be incredibly lucky if 50% of Americans lived in circumstances that allowed them to consider owning a non-sporty two-seater that’s not cheap, not especially efficient, takes premium gas and has a notoriously unpleasant transmission. Like electric cars, city cars have a relatively small potential market due to their fundamental attributes; you don’t need an 80%+ awareness rate to find the few people who can use, afford and appreciate such a niche product.

Fiat, meanwhile, is actually benefitting from a lack of awareness… of what a mess its entire marketing campaign is. After starting off with an advertisement that was so horrifically dull Chrysler had to take it off of Youtube, Fiat handed things over to a small firm called Impatto… which apparently melted down into a complete sideshow. How bad are things? Fiat-Chrysler’s global marketing boss, Francois, is taking charge, and when asked what’s happened to Fiat’s US brand manager Laura Soave, Chrysler spokesfolks say

To my knowledge, Laura is still on board.

Yikes! But then, it might not be fair to put all the blame on Soave’s shoulders… after all, Francois is hardly setting the world on fire by plastering the J-Lo ad seen above all over football games. As if to confirm that marketing positions require the ability to uncritically chew your own bullshit, Francois claims

Listen, I’m not a great fan of using celebrities at any cost. I prefer a good idea to a bad celebrity. I used to say endorsements are lazy when you have no idea. But that’s not the point — from time to time you have a magic association. I like to take a celebrity because the celebrity’s story fits with the story.

And yet you have J-Lo selling a 100 HP cutesy-mobile during football games. And the NY Post reports the brand was planning on giving cars to “influencers” (read: celebrities) and then having TMZ photograph them, not to mention

planning celebrity drive events in the Hamptons this month and star-studded parties at Miami’s SoHo Beach House in October where celebs can drive the car. Fiat USA is also a Miami Fashion Week partner.

Sounds a lot like the 500’s marketing plan is “celebrities at all costs,” rather than all the BS about “magic associations”… although Francois denies any involvement in the paparazzi scheme, telling AdAge

I think there is a true part of the story and a totally invented part of the story. The paparazzi part is crazy to me. Maybe there had been internal talks but I was not involved. We were going to give the opportunity to some opinion leaders to drive the car. We have a lot of requests, around L.A. especially, to drive the car. It’s nothing but good to have opinion leaders driving your car. I don’t know what happened, but it spun out of control.

Between Smart and Fiat, we have two brands that face challenges going into the market due to limited product offerings with limited appeal to US consumers. In the case of Smart, the marketing has always been decent… “Think Small” was a great tagline, and the latest ad proves there’s no better way to sell a car like the ForTwo. But because the original marketing was good, the new marketing is nearly identical, and the product hasn’t changed, don’t look for Smart to go anywhere in its battle for awareness.

Fiat, on the other hand, has made such a colossal mess of the 500 marketing campaign ever since it arrived in the US, a complete marketing re-boot could probably yield some kind of benefit. But clearly Soave and Francois are fresh out of ideas… Fiat-Chrysler needs to get some very smart people studying every marketing move MINI has ever made in this country and then rebooting the 500’s marketing from scratch. After all, when you’re selling niche products, awareness isn’t enough… consumers need to want the product so badly, they’re willing to put up with its downsides. Being aware of its cuteness alone isn’t enough. For a brand like Fiat, with a product like the 500, talking about the problem in terms of “awareness” simply proves how badly they’ve bungled the entire effort. And that it’s time to start over from scratch.

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46 Comments on “Americans Love Tiny Cars, They’re Just Not Aware Of Them...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I’m quite happy with my Suzuki SX 4 crossover, which is a 3kpound small car. It’s adequately zippy w/the 6-speed, the AWD is needed here in my home area, it’s cute, and actually pretty fun to drive. (Nope, it’s not like the myriad of sports cars I’ve owned, but it’s entertaining.)

    So, yup, even those of us who have owned and loved very high performance cars know of and have purchased and loved small, light cars.

  • avatar
    Gedrven

    Fiat needs a marketing manager named Tony. As in, “Fix It Again…”

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    there are very few places in the western english speaking world that you need a car as small as the fiat 500 let alone the smart car

    so why own a car that is so hard to live with if the running costs don’t compensate you for the pain of owning one?

    the fiat 500 isn’t too bad but it’s not even a hatchback

    you’re much better off getting a myriad of small hatches

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      so why own a car that is so hard to live with if the running costs don’t compensate you for the pain of owning one?

      Because you like the way it looks and drives?

      Also, if your talking about females, young and single and empty nesters, I’d venture to guess that 99.9% of the time it’s just them in the car with at most a few packages or groceries bags. Why buy a car for the 0.1% rather than the 99.9%?

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        unfortunately the purchasing tastes of the western world seems to be all about buying for the 1% rather than the 99%

        why do people need full size trucks, CUVs, 7 seaters, SUVs when they drive mainly by themselves?

        by the same token i doubt people will buy a fiat 500 or much less, a Smart unless economic conditions make it necessary… CLEARLY the fashion and trend/hipster attractions aren’t making it…

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        by the same token i doubt people will buy a fiat 500 or much less, a Smart unless economic conditions make it necessary… CLEARLY the fashion and trend/hipster attractions aren’t making it…

        Anecdotaly, I’ve seen a number of them in my neighborhood, so I’m not sure I agree. It seems to sell well among urban professional women and I could imagine it would do well with empty nesters who are finally able to get rid of the Odyssey or the Sienna and want to get as far away from a minivan as they can.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    Didn’t BMW originally expect the Mini to appeal to young, hip buyers? Instead, of course, it appealed to older buyers who had a clue what the original Mini was. So, bad idea to start, but they still sold. Now maybe Fiat doesn’t know who’s going to buy the 500 in the US. But if the car was as appealing as the new Mini, that wouldn’t matter – it would sell anyway. So what I take away from that is that if the Fiat 500 had the right appeal, it would be selling now. Since it apparently doesn’t, Fiat needs to find a way to convince people that it is appealing. After all, VW did it, way back in the age of the dinosaurs.

    Oh, and the Smart? Come back when it gets 90 mpg. On regular.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The MINI definitely appeals to young, hip buyers. It just isn’t very affordable to that segment. It is, in fact, even less affordable today. My wife (a 24 year old professional living in a 60k town that is somehow part Portland, part college party town) bought her decently optioned MCS for $23k new in ’05. The town is filled with MINIs. Anyway, a similarly optioned MCS is pushing $27k now. I think BMW realized that late teens/early 20s folks couldn’t afford them in the first place, so they may as well make a small push upmarket and pocket the extra cash. As far as I can tell, sales haven’t stagnated as a result.

      6 years later (almost 7!) and we’re still scooting around in the MCS. My wife wants a larger car for when we start a family, but she’s unwilling to give up the MINI.

      • 0 avatar
        MarkP

        I went to a meeting of the Albuquerque Mini club maybe 7 or 8 years ago (who can tell – time passes so fast when you’re old) and there was one young woman and a bunch of old guys, including my friend, who actually ended up having to get his Mini from Denver because the ABQ dealer hadn’t opened yet. But even then the Mini had some kind of aura. My friend said people kept wanting to race him, but the early Mini’s were not all that fast. I can conceive of driving a 500 but somehow I don’t see that happening with the 500.

        I hope they succeed. I had a 1971 Fiat 124 Coupe which I loved, and which ran trouble-free for more than 90,000 miles before I sold it. The only thing I didn’t like was that the driving position was designed for apes – you know, short legs and long arms.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, there was a salesman for MINI in ABQ in 2010 who was in his 20s and who got a MINI S JCW before that and (supposedly) went to work for the dealership to spread the faith. He takes it to AutoX. So, these things happen to young people with excess of money.

  • avatar
    GrouchoMarxist

    If you crossed a Fiat 500 with a Smart car, you would get a little FART. Complete the ambience with a fart can muffler.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    What has puzzled me about the Smart car in the US is the fact that there’s no plan to show the four door version. I can see starting out with a single model, but I would say that it would be past the time to introduce a larger (or just 4 door) model to keep sales going. Of course, I don’t know what the marketing plan is. Even as car-centric as Michigan is, I really don’t recall ever seeing a TV ad for the Smart car. OTOH, maybe Midwesterners really don’t ‘get’ the city car concept. And possibly the Smart 4 door may not compete well against 4 door Yarises and etc.

    If anything, FIAT needs to hurry up and get the performance models out to the dealers and in some high visibility racing series. Maybe the Continental Tire Series, since MINIs already run there. Or they could be the opening act for another series (a-la the Toyota Celebrity races and the like).

    I’m not in the target market for a MINI so I really didn’t pay attention how BMW launched the car, but it seems to me they had the Cooper performance models out (and in series racing) shortly after release in the US market. You could do worse than to follow BMWs example.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    The Smart is doomed. I’m sure everybody knows why; poor performance, terrible fuel economy, etc. I drove by a Fiat dealership about a month ago. They had about as many used Smart cars on the lot as they did 500’s.

    I’d never buy a Smart. I could see myself in a 500 though but part of that is because I already have bigger and more practical vehicles. I’ve driven and I like the Mini too, but the Mini cost a ridiculous amount of money for what you get. It’s about as big of a rip off as a BMW….

    • 0 avatar
      Bowler300

      This makes sense. I traded in my smart for a 500. My gas mileage however has dropped from 41 in the smart to 38 in the 500. The smart’s fuel mileage was not ‘terrible’. Its transmission was.
      The 500 is a so much better car.

  • avatar
    86er

    Are Americans incapable of seeing, recognizing or being aware of anything that weighs less than 3,000 lbs?

    They make vehicles that weigh less than 3,000 lbs?

    Seriously though, North American highways are vast, multi-laned and dangerous places where driving a SMART is akin to piloting a souped-up golf cart down the interstate.

    These type of vehicles make good city cars, but we also have vast distances between said cities and who can afford a dedicated city car? The market is limited. (North) Americans love diversity of choice more than tiny cars.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    My first-gen Scion xB weighs around 2600lb. I suppose that makes it a small car. Nonetheless, it has tons of room. It’s not a fantastic highway car, but it does the trick on the interstate. Around town, it is a fantastic car.

    Why should I pay a price in roominess to drive something like a Smart or 500?

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      Kaching. The Scion xB, Honda Fit and all of the other B-segment cars out there already have the market for “small, cheap, fun, practical” nailed down; the 500 and Smart are in an entirely different market, where “small” and “cute” are the only priorities, and drivers are expected to pay a premium (more, in fact, than many of the above B-segmenters) solely for cuteness and the ability to fit into a marginally smaller parking spot than the Fit. I can see that logic working for someone living in Manhattan who already has an Escalade and an S-Class and wants something that they can drive down to SoHo to go shopping; unfortunately for Fiat, that’s not a recipe for bulk sales.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    …..whoa there!… 35 million dollars in ads to (hopefully) sell ten thousand cars? Better off wholesaling them at a discount to Penske and giving their delusional marketing mavens a career adjustment “en masse”.
    To blame the dismal Smart sales on lack of awareness is ridiculous……they are their own mobile billboard! Nothing short of an Oscar Mayer rolling frankfurter gets more attention from kids and parents alike. It’s one of those “cute, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in one” deals, pardon the imagery.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It is better than that. They’re planning on spending 30 or so million dollars in the hope of picking up 4,000 additional sales. That’s $7,500 per extra unit in advertising costs. Maybe Daimler-Benz doesn’t realize that the average transaction price of a Smart is less than it is for a Mercedes. I’d fire everybody involved. Besides, everyone who has seen a Smart on US roads is aware of them and has an opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      I was just going to post this. What kind of a failure is it to spend $3500 per car on questionable marketing. And of course the cost per car goes even higher if they don’t get to a 10k increase.

      Sounds like marketing the Smart in NA has already failed and they are just not ready to admit it..

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        …….it’s not a uniquely North American problem…..the Smart has been losing money for it’s various automakers (Swatch, Chrysler, Cerberus) from day one. At one time in Europe they had about ten different models, including a really neat little sports car that made a Miata look like a Bentley Azure in comparison. Why they persevere with it is anybody’s guess, but being so successful on the Benz side probably begets a “we’re never wrong” arrogance.
        Personally, I think they should cut their losses and sell it as a (slow)going concern to the first sovereign wealth fund or internet billionaire to step up to the plate. Maybe Tata’s interested……they could rebrand the Nano as an entry level Smart.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Both these cars are more punch lines to jokes than much else. I don’t think many people would want to be seen in one, they draw attention but not in a great way.

    I have seen about 3 smart cars and 2 500s. Conversely, we see plenty of other small cars, Scions, Ions, Venza, even Echos and these are not big sellers.

    The Smart car is goofy and the Fiat 500, is well a Fiat and the 30 year absence from the market makes buyers a bit skittish about their prospects.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      G…see, I’m one person (a guy. A 41 year old married guy. Professional engineer. Deployed to Afghanistan…more likely to come) who wants a 500, but really wants it in Abarth trim. I don’t need, nor do I want, a large car. I know there are myriad mid-size cars, more powerful car, etc…that can all be had for the same price. Don’t really care. And if folks have a problem with me driving a small 500…not my problem, either. The grin factor will more than compensate. But then, I rather like small, unique cars.
      As for Fiat’s advertising of the car, the JLo ad just hurts my soul. Really. I don’t see the point, and it does nothing to further the image of the car. God help me if they put Bieber into an Abarth commercial…

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        ….I’m too lazy to look up the dimensions, but 500s/Abarths look much more substantial than Smarts to me. I doubt you’ll be the butt of any snickering in a nicely optioned Abarth.
        “But-“, poor Ms.Lopez…..I’m sure she’d rather see another poolside cellulite feature in a scandal rag than be thrown under the “bad celebrity” bus by some car business marketing honcho. Hopefully she’s only an occasional autoblogger, and the slight will pass unnoticed.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Could she really have looked worse without the plastic surgery?

  • avatar
    bobman

    I’ve noticed a few articles about the Fiat 500 marketing campaign. I must admit I don’t think much about the J-Lo videos but, I thought Laura Soave was doing a pretty good job. Sales in the states are at 3000+ level per month. That’s with a third of their target dealer locations still waiting to come online. The Arbarth is coming soon. This should be a further boost to sales. If you include the Canadian sales, Fiat should be close to the 50K North American sales rate figure they were looking for. Obviously, they won’t hit that figure this year because of the late starts in dealer openings. However, next year should give them the numbers they’re looking for. I believe their numbers are already above the Mini.

    I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I agree, considering the slow roll out the 500 is doing pretty well despite crappy marketing. Since it’s a lot easier to redesign an ad campaign than a car, I’d say Fiat still has a pretty good shot. The Smart, on the other hand, is the answer to a question very few Americans are asking, I can’t see why they don’t call it a day.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if comparing the MINI and the Fiat 500C launches is such a good idea. The original Mini, while not a big seller in America, was well known and well loved by car enthusiasts. I don’t think there is a comparable iconic Fiat. The original 500 never really was sold here, and the cars of interest to enthusiasts, the 850, the 124 spider, the 128 variants and the X/19, while cool cars, don’t have quite the legendary status of Sir Alec’s design. Also, as bad as the reputation is of Brit cars is among enthusiasts, Fiat’s reputation is worse. Even among the general public, I’m guessing that “Fix It Again Tony” is better known than “Lucas, Prince of Darkness”.

    Also, in the case of the MINI, buff books and enthusiast web sites were curious as to how BMW would do with such an iconic car and brand, so the MINI got a lot of press. The cachet of being made by BMW and the popular notion of German cars’ quality probably offset any misgivings about a British car. MINIs may be made by BMW now, but Fiat is still Fiat and the same company that made the original 500 is making the new 500C. It’s still an Italian car, with all that means to consumers in the US. The MINI was the first successful very small car in the US. The 500C has a bit of “me too” about it.

    As for using celebrities, unless it directly translates into free publicity, it’s stupid and a waste of money. Does GM get the publicity value of the wholesale cost of the Escalade they comp to Wolfgang Puck? I doubt it.

    I like New Balance shoes because they don’t pay for endorsements.

    I’m impressed by the fact that all of the professional racers who use iRacing are paying customers, even Dale Earnhardt Jr. Actually, Dale Jr. isn’t even paid for the commercials he does for them.

    Now in the case of a racing game or sim, an athlete’s endorsement makes some marketing sense. In the case of the JLo Fiat ad, I think it’s everything that Francois says it isn’t. It also may be the worst car commercial of all times – certainly on the list.

    http://pajamasmedia.com/lifestyle/2011/09/20/is-this-the-worst-car-commercial-of-all-times/

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      Here in the U.S. the Fiat 600 sold in greater numbers than the 500. The 600 was small, but it was larger than the 500 and had a four cylinder engine. Most of the old 500s you see in the U.S. today are newer models that have been privately imported since the 1990’s. The same is true for the original Mini and the Citroen 2CV.

    • 0 avatar

      I brought this up on a related thread but it fits here as well…

      Ten years ago I got to meet Amber Brkich of “Survivor” fame. We spoke about the real characters she played the game with – versus how they were portrayed on TV.

      It’s all in how the shows were edited.

      My contention is that the J-Lo ad is indeed one of the worst car ads of all time…but it could’ve been a classic.

      No, really. Here’s the original video from which the ad was edited:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XbIuSLaCnk&ob=av2e

      I doubt the story could’ve been edited to fit :30 but I think it could’ve worked as a :60…the romantic angle developed in the video would endear more people to the car. Women in particular would connect with the character, Gail, that J-Lo played in the video…and chuckle at why every guy in town was chasing her.

      Instead we’re supposed to believe that J-Lo herself would own a Fiat 500 and that an artist with ONE hit since 2003 (plus this season as an American Idol judge) would cause that kind of mayhem…”Willing suspension of disbelief” is a phrase that comes to mind.

      And then placing these ads on NFL games…

      An epic fail that could’ve been a classic IMHO.

      As for Smart…great ad.

      If only the car was even 1/2 as good…and got better MPG…and would run on regular…and was somewhat fun to drive…and had a transmission that didn’t break.

      • 0 avatar
        bobman

        I had never seen the entire video before. The bits and pieces used in the commercial make no sense on their own. That’s probably why the negative feedback. I liked the video, she looks great in it.

        The commercial reminds me a little of the follow-ups commercials they did of the original Super Bowl spot featuring Detroit rapper Eminem. The follow-ups were very cheaply made. I think it’s Mr. Francois hoping to make a dramatic statement without spending a lot of money. Didn’t seem to work this time.

        Again, I don’t think any damage was done and, most likely, didn’t cost a lot of money.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Sorry – Even JLO can’t make that frumpy little thing look sexy! There is no reason to own cars like the Fiat or the Smart in the US. Send them back to Europe where they belong.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I think the 500 can get away with riding Mini’s coattails given it’s lower price. The J-Lo commercial is terrible on so many levels. A beige 500? I guess that’s a good choice if you don’t want the car to distract people from Ms Lopez.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    Whoever agreed to put 500 ads with JLo during football games – please contact me, I have a bridge I can offer you at excellent price. But you will have to deliver the money to my Nigerian step-sister.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I think they’re right on this.

    The American market soaked up half a million CRXes over 7 years of production, and American drivers have bought a million Miatas too. The volume’s there if you’ve got the right mix of driving fun (needs to be exceptional) and running costs (need to be low).

    The MINI can boogie, so it sells well here. The SMART can’t, so it doesn’t.

  • avatar
    Les

    I’ve been intrigued by the Fiat 500 since first seeing it on Top Gear, in fact I’ve been oddly enough more aware of the 500 than I have been of it’s marketing campaign. However, the one consistent complaint I’ve heard from every review has been ‘Underpowered’, so I’m waiting on the Abarth. Leaving such a long lead-time between the base models and the performance version may have been a big misstep on Fiat’s part.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Hears a thought. TV advertisements, notoriously, take liberties with the truth. Most people know this and therefore most people do not develop perceptions from Ads… I hope. If you want to change an entire nations perception or awareness of small cars, advertising is not the right path.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Ernie is not stupid. He’s been handed a bags of snakes and told to do something with it. Until Deiter and the boys give up on Smart, he’ll have to keep whistling in the dark and try minor changes. I doubt he expects anything to work. To fix this, MB has to revamp the whole platform, redo the crappy trannies, put better engines in them and actually increase the size to mirror the mileage. Then they have to severely target the market to high density urban areas like Manhattan, Boston and SF. It will always be a niche but could be a profitable one at the right price point.

    FIAT OTOH, is screwing up a perfect opportunity. They’re doing a mishmash which doesn’t communicate anything but disaster. They need to do a corporate ad that communicates what FIAT stands for and potential models. That’s it. Get the word out. Forget the celebrity BS, even stimulating growth with too few models and even worse, piss poor penetration of the market means that any sale is fraught with possibility that there’s nothing available at the local level. Cool it until you have everything in place. And get the Abarth over here ASAP. Having those things tooling around is far better advertising than any media buy.

    All this points up that FIAT is trying to do things on the cheap as usual. No product, poor dealer network, fractured promotions – each cheap on their own but sending mixed messages and an overall lack coherency to anyone including their own people. What a way to run a railroad.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    Will this be the car that finally puts the nail in the Chrysler coffin?
    Katy Perry or Rhianna or someone like that would have been a better choice for Fiat 500 shill. Jlo is bigger than life, seeing her in a 500 is so unbelievable, it’s not even funny. Jlo probably has flower pots larger than the 500.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    The Smart is a fail on so many levels that I can’t even imagine what could pull it out of the toilet.

    The 500, on the other hand, seems to have potential.
    First: It’s an Italian icon. How about an ad campaign that aligns the 500 with Italian style, design and cool? J Lo is none of these things.
    Second: Product placement. The Mini took off having figured prominently in a film (The Italian Job. How ironic!). Get the 500 front and center in an exciting action sequence where the car, in the hands of the good guys/gals, outperforms and outsmarts the cars in the hands of the bad guys.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      ……if they ressurect the series, a tubbed Fiat 500 could pull that off on “the mountain”. There could be a problem squeezing Daisy in with those big Duke boys,though….plus, the Stars And Bars wouldn’t fit on the roof!……but making Boss Hawg’s cop henchmen drive Minis could work wonders for Fiat sales.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      Back in the 60s when they made the original Italian Job, the one with Michael Caine and Benny Hill, product placement was a fairly new idea. The producers approached BMC to try to get some free mini coopers to do the movie, BMC turned them down. Such was their stupidity at the time.

      Fiat offered some free cars but that would not have fitted in with the plot.

      Part of the film sequence does have the minis running around the roof test track on top of the factory in Turin.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        …..modish British upstarts on the sacred top deck of Fiat HQ ?…..had Enzo (who always drove Fiats, and rarely drove his own creations) been in charge, he would never have allowed that! While we’re on the subject, that’s probably the only roof I’ve ever dreamed of driving on.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    With decent marketing and some improvements, principally an Abarth version, the 500 could succeed as a niche vehicle. My wife loved our 1987 Civic hatch because it was so short. So is the 500. I like the idea of a roller skate that can zip through traffic.

    I see they are calling the Smart an “uncar”. That’s the truth because it isn’t a car; it’s a bad joke. The Smart has no virtues that can’t be duplicated in other, better vehicles. If you want to stay at the same price and get the same gas mileage, buy a Ford Fiesta. If you want more room and can spend a bit more, buy a Honda Fit.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    $30,000,000 campaign / 10,000 sales = $3,000 per car. They must be taking a bath. They should have spent it on incentives.


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