An event held at Washington D.C’s Brookings Institute saw FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and former National Economic Council head Larry Summers discuss the auto bailout on its five-year anniversary. As always, Marchionne had some colorful commentary, with a one interesting nugget about Fiat.
According to Christina Rogers of the Wall Street Journal, Marchionne claimed that the Fiat 500 was only imported to the United States due to the government’s hand, with Marchionne stating
“It was a condition assigned to the [bailout] deal”
This has previously never been stated in any bailout related discussion – only the Dodge Dart and its 40 mpg capability has been highlighted as a specific requirement of the bailout, in terms of product.
If this is indeed correct, it would add some context to Fiat’s confusing position in the marketplace. For Fiat to thrive in America, it would make sense to add more product that is better aligned to American tastes. All we’ve gotten are the 500 and 500L, which are both unsuited to the vast majority of American tastes and driving conditions.
So far, Fiat’s American arrival has been an expensive endeavor that has not exactly fared well. The costs of homologating the cars, building the 500 in a new factory in the NAFTA zone, establishing a dealer network and marketing the car is certain to be a $1-billion dollar expenditure. Perhaps this is just a bit of bluster by Sergio to obfuscate the fact that Fiat isn’t burning up the sales charts in America. I am sure that Fiat dealers would like a more lucid answer.