By on May 13, 2013

fiat500moarproduct

 

Despite sales of the Fiat 500 picking up, Fiat dealers are getting antsy for new product, with some showrooms struggling to turn a profit based on sales of the subcompact alone.

Reuters reports that dealers have been given the runaround about future product – including everyone’s favorite phantom marque, Alfa Romeo. Fiat has twice postponed a meeting to discuss these matters, and no future date has been set.

But dealers are feeling the stress of having to market a small, subcompact car in a market that has traditionally been less than receptive to these products. Gary Brown, chairman of the Chrysler dealer council and the owner of a Fiat store on Long Island, described his sentiments

“I’m struggling to break even…With the one car in a small (volume) segment, it’s a tough go right now. The real key is rolling out new product, additional offerings,” said Brown. “The four-door (500L) is really going to be a shot in the arm. It will put a franchise on more people’s radar as they are shopping for a small car.”

Fiat’s sales are up slightly in 2013, growing along with the rest of the market. The brand has managed to reach the milestone of 40,000 vehicles annually, something that took rival brand Mini twice as long. But the constant delays and backtracking around product, especially Alfa Romeo’s return to America beyond the pricey 4C sports car is an obvious source of frustration to a dealer body that has  committed to significant investment on the promise of a range of new cars from both Fiat and Alfa.

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39 Comments on “Fiat Dealers Crying Out For More Product...”


  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    So Fiat 500′s are sold at their own independent dealerships? I always thought they would be sold as part of Chrysler dealerships, at least for now. Well as much as I dislike the 500L series (mainly the XL, the L gets a pass for being like a modern take on the 600 Multipla) I hope those will give Fiat the US sales it needs.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      My local Chrysler dealer does not own the FIAT franchise, they are owned by the local Chevy dealer. The FIAT studio is a standalone building in the back 40 parking lot behind the Chevy dealer. I can’t imagine the place costs much to run. Two sales dudes and a receptionist. The mechanics all also work at the Chevy store. The building is just big enough for two little service bays, a showroom that holds two 500s, and a couple offices. The parts warehouse is the second floor. They keep about 25 cars in stock and they are selling pretty well here in Portland. Probably helps that the closest MINI dealer is 120 miles away. This seems a pretty typical arrangement from what I have seen of FIAT stores around the country – none of them are very big.

      I’m very happy with my Abarth. 3K miles and the only issue is a slight creak from the driver’s seat. I would creak too if I had to hold me up – I’m a big boy. I’ve gotten two friends interested in the cars, one has ordered a Pop.

      • 0 avatar
        andyinatl

        I live in Atlanta area, and our biggest dealer Landmark Fiat is pretty big. There are about 7-8 cars in showroom, pretty large service area, and tons of 500s around the building. I purchased my 500 Pop from them, and i have to say i’m pretty happy with dealer experience and with car itself after a year and 17K miles. It used to be Dodge dealer few years back, so perhaps that explains the size of the dealership, as the other Fiat dealers i’ve seen in Florida and Georgia were pretty small…

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          @andyinatl: So Landmark Dodge is gone? I used to live nearby (about 20 yrs ago), I can remember the row upon row of shiny new cars there. They serviced my Lancer and Dakota, too…

          When I first moved to ATL, it WAS a landmark, my waypoint to navigate all around the southern suburbs.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        Another big boy here… I just turned 16K and 1 year on my ’12 Abarth and I am loving the car. No problems whatsoever… no, that’s not entirely true. I find I’m driving my ’81 X1/9 less and that’s a problem.

        BTW, my son has seen about 5 Abarths on the highways around Sacramento and he says everyone of ‘em was being driven like they were meant to be driven… fast!

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I have seen several 500s in this town, an hour’s drive away from the nearest sales and service center, and finally saw an Abarth running around this weekend, which bodes well for the brand’s prospects. But it’s past time to bolster their product line with something the salesman can point to when the customer says, “I like it – but I really need something bigger.” The 500L really needs to show up on dealer lots soon.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Wow ~ after a several month hiatus , I’m getting messages from TTAC again , a good thing .

    Here in So. Cal. Fiats are being sold in Chrysler Dealers .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Here in NC we have fiat only dealer, but the guy that owns it also owns 6-8 other dealers in the same area, as well as in other states.

    It’s a full size dealership, one of the first ones opened in the country as well.
    Has a very “hipster” setting for the show room, definitely not meant to appeal to mainstream car shoppers. But the guy has the advantage of the only dealer in several hundred miles so, he has a large client area to fill which I’m sure helps.

  • avatar

    Here in Salt Lake City it’s a stand alone dealer, but the large dealer network has it combined with Jaguar and Volvo internally, so they don’t need three sets of management to run three low volume dealer. That being said, the dealership is profitable, partly for that reason.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    It’s a real shame the Fiat Panda can’t be sold here.

    A 4 wheel drive compact car that gets great gas mileage? Up here in the Northeast, a car like that would fly off the showroom floor. All we have that fits that niche is Subaru, which is why you see a ton of Subarus where I live.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Down the street from where I work and on the other side of the Jim Ellis (Chamblee) multiplex of dealer lots there is Landmark Fiat (Landmark is the name of a well-established Chrysler/Dodge dealership, as well)…and when you drive by that place the effect is FREAKY.

    Seventy-plus units of later-day Topolinos, hardtop or rolltop, tame or Abarthe…as far as the eye can see. You can have any model you like…as long as it’s a 500 [/Henry Ford-Dom Toretto]

    A couple of doors down is a Maserati dealer; too weird that a high-end joint like that gives you more variety than does a traditional entry-level boutique marque like Fiat.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Where I live, the Fiat dealership—ahem, *Studio*—is placed strategically near the BMW/MINI dealership. It doesn’t appear to be owned by any of the local franchises, and I’m sure the staff at the Fiat Studio would be thoroughly horrified if I pointed out the brand’s corporate relations with Chrysler Group…

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    The only fiat studio I can think of is attached to a huge chain that’s locally owned. It’s probably got about 50-70 cars around it because it was a converted fast food location. It has atleast room for 3-4 service bays and atleast 2 inside on the showroom floor. I think it’s an issue of dealerships regardless of size needing to keep a certain amount of staff on hand and well…selling 40K is nice but not that great. I’m excited to see the 500XL. Hopefully we’ll be getting Alfa soon…

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My local mega dealer has had about 60 500s in stock continuously since Fiat reappeared. They seem to have caught on around here. But when I test-drove one, my favorite part was the front seat comfort, interesting color options, and the excellent cabrio roof – not the drivetrain or the value proposition.

    This one-trick pony desperately needs more product, but it has to offer something that distinguishes it from the competition.

    This particular dealership sits across the street from their own Hyundai store, and I’m sure Fiat customers are cross-shopping Elantras. The Elantra offers more room, better economy, better warranty, more power, and similarly progressive looks. “Cute” won’t keep Fiat going for very much longer.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      Elantra is a four wheeled appliance. No personality, although I’m sure there’s a market for it.

      500s aren’t for everyone, but I – for one – am damned glad new Fiats are sold here in America.

      • 0 avatar

        I have a 500 myself, and I absolutely adore it. I didn’t cross shop it with an Elantra, and most Fiat customers I spoke with didn’t either. There is so much more to a car than a warranty and fuel economy. The Fiat is very unique in the market as it’s a vehicle that is bought by all socioeconomic levels. The Elantra is generally bought by a very specific kind of person, while the 500 goes across the board. I’ve seen people buy who are in the lower end of the of the wealth scale, and when I was in for service, I saw a man buy one who made $850k a year. It fits in in all wealth groups, while the Hyundai does not (don’t get me started about the Eqqus either).

        Any Hyundai is an appliance bought by people who only care about fuel economy and a warranty. The Fiat, and any future Fiats will be bought by people who actually care about what they drive.

        • 0 avatar
          VA Terrapin

          How disappointing that someone like you who uses lots of words railing against those who use anti-gay/lesbian words like “faggot” and “dyke” decides to use a blatantly anti-Asian stereotype to describe an Asian car.

          How come so many North American auto enthusiasts readily use words like “soulless” and “appliance” to describe mainstream Asian cars while equally soulless and appliance-like American and Euro cars like the Malibu, Chrysler 200 and Jetta aren’t described the same way?

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Same issue Saturn had. Yes, I know…different sort of market but the original Saturn was well received and when those owners were ready to trade up there was nowhere to go.

    Same here as I don’t really see your average 500 owner heading to the Chrysler dealer when he or she has a family and needs something larger.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Here in NYC there is a Fiat studio and the west side of Manhattan on 12th Ave which for years has been auto row. There are a few in the outer boroughs. They need to add Alfa for the folks who want to move upmarket and are not interested in the L or XL models.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    OOPS ~

    Sorry all , I meant I’m getting new TTAC posts again after a _way_ too long hiatus .

    Because I’m old and well remember Fiats 50 years ago , I don’t see why ” cute ” (and economical) won’t keep them going for a long time but then , the only two new Motor Vehicles I ever bought were both Motocycles .

    Around Los Angeles I see many of these fun looking cars , mostly driven by younger folks , about 60 % Women , just like in 1962 .

    I know some guys who go on the same Road Rally with me have bought fully kitted Abarths , oddly they never drive that on the Road Rallys .

    As mentioned , driving slow cars fast beats driving fast cars , well _faster_ unless you’re on a closed track or Road Course .

    At the Police Garage where I work , the few guys who have Fiat 500′s all seem to like them and have not done any modifications , not even louder exhaust .

    Keep the comments coming ! .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    The 500 is a VERY effeminate car, and that doesn’t change much even when it’s dressed up as the Abarth.

    I try, and for the most part succeed, not to be superficial or give a rat’s ass what other people think about what I drive, wear and generally do and do NOT spend my money on (I am willing to spend money, but I do so very much in a selective, almost minimalistic, quality over quantity manner), but be that as it may, I don’t think I could feel comfortable driving this vehicle around because it oozes femininity in such copious amounts.

    It’s as cute as a button, and I think it would make the perfect car for a Hello Kitty special edition.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Well there you go ;

      This only means you *might* have Masculinity issues ~ I know quite a few Guys who drive ” effeminate ” cars by choice as they’re single and always ” On The Hunt ” and hands down , they get more Women interested because it’s obvious they don’t use their mode of transport to compensate for anything else .

      I know this for fact , look at my Avatar ~ the Nash Metropolitan had the hands down lock on cuteness , it’s my daily driver as well as my Rally Car and yes , Women bombard me non stop everywhere I go in it , I don’t care as I have the Woman I want waiting @ home .

      Point being , if you think driving a ‘cute’ or ‘gay’ car is scary , you’re not a real GearHead anyway .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I can confirm that my FIAT Abarth attracts more female attention than any car I have ever owned. I had a cute girl come right up to me at a gas station this morning asking all sorts of questions about it, and mine isn’t even a cute color combo. It’s a black on black Abarth with no stripes and the standard gray wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      I’m saddened by your post, DeadWeight. I always feel empathy for those who suspect they’re “Y” chromosome challenged.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I’m not saying I judge other males as being effeminate because they drive a Fiat 500. I am admitting that I would feel that way despite my best efforts to disregard the need to project any particular image, for whatever reason (and I am quite confident in my straight as an arrow sexual orientation, not that there’s anything wrong with others with opposite orientations…).

      Let’s all be completely honest about this matter. Can anyone who took even mild offense at my comment deny that there’s not a single vehicle that you wouldn’t feel comfortable driving for similarly and admittedly shallow reasons?

  • avatar
    Dan

    Just when I thought these things couldn’t get any gayer, a Fiat store is called a studio now? lol srsly?

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Technically it’s an Agency , I didn’t realize there was so much aspect to the selling of trendy cars now .

      maybe they’ll follow Harley-Davidson and begin calling Fiat Agencies
      ” Boutiques ” .

      I’d like to try one out , the flop top one in pastel green , gray or maybe white W/ red interior , see how fun it is or is not .

      Back in the day , Fiats were always fun drivers, , even the weird Multiplia , they just needed major repairs every 40,000 miles , that turned me off in spite of super cheap parts and simplicity in the design making said repairs easy D.I.Y. projects .

      -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      Have no fear, Dan. They won’t discriminate against you or any others with a lisp.

      I’m cereal.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    I wonder how many of the 500s are leased vs purchased. seems like a decent way to get a “fashion fix” and not have to worry about problems past the warranty period

  • avatar
    Piqutchi

    Maybe we’ll see the Fiat Viaggio (Dodge Dart rebadge) and the Freemont (a Dodge Journey variant) in the US soon!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I thought those were rebadges to cover a missing niche in Europe. I doubt they’ll be sold here. It looks like all Fiat dealers will get is multiple versions of the 500L. I wonder if they’ll do a pickup version: El CinqueRancherCenterino?


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