FIAT Returns to U.S. Again. Still. Soon. Maybe. Or Not.

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
fiat returns to u s again still soon maybe or not

C'mon, let's face reality here. If you were a foreign automaker aspiring to sell your products in the U.S., there are a few facts that should stop you dead in your tracks. 1) North America is the world's most competitive automotive market. There's a reason The Big 2.8 are fighting for their survival and it's not because they're the only kids on the block 2) You couldn't imagine a worse time to be selling cars in the U.S. The new vehicle market is in chaos. And it's about to get worse. When Chrysler, Ford and/or GM files for C11, there will be a cataclysmic and unpredictable market upheaval. 3) If there's one car brand you don't want to bring to the U.S. it's FIAT. I know people who've never SEEN a FIAT, who weren't BORN when FIAT sold cars in the U.S., who know that the Italian brand is famous for rust, mechanical failure and parts unavailability. You'd be better off pulling a Lexus and creating an entirely new brand; that cane won't hunt. Now, The Detroit Free Press' Mark Phelan has a corner (stay in that corner and don't come out until you have a story!), in which he reports "Italy's Alfa Romeo and Fiat cars are on the verge of returning to the United States, Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne told the Automotive News Europe Congress." Yes, "The Fiat Group, which owns Alfa Romeo — and the Ferrari, Maserati, Fiat, Lancia and Abarth brands — plans to relaunch Alfa in America next year and may also sell the stylish Fiat 500 subcompact here." Oh, Alfa. That's alright then. Isn't it?

Join the conversation
4 of 30 comments
  • Rix Rix on Jun 26, 2008

    GM had to pay FIAT to get rid of the stake. Five years ago it was less than worthless. It was a mini-GM with GM type problems. Today FIAT is highly profitable and probably worth more than GM. It's a good story of what can be done by exceptional management albeit in a good market.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jun 26, 2008

    I'll take a Panda or 500 thanks... At least until somebody makes a good EV I can afford.

  • Beelzebubba Beelzebubba on Jun 26, 2008

    As someone who has experienced Italian car ownership first hand (a love/hate relationship if there ever was one), this would be disastrous! Sexy sports cars and high-end luxury models are one thing- their high prices make low volume sales profitable and they're rarely used as "daily drivers". But drivers weaned on Hondas and Toyotas lack the patience, and willingness, to deal with the "eccentricities" endemic to the average Italian car. I bought a 1995 Alfa Romeo 164 Quadrifoglio in 2003 for a steal ($2k under the KBB trade-in value at the time). It had 85k miles at the time and I very wisely held on to my '92 Accord EX just to be safe. The look and smell of the Italian leather and the dead-sexy growl of the 3.0L V6 was intoxicating. I very quickly discovered that an Italian car isn't an Italian car if something isn't broken all the's just a question of HOW MANY things need fixing and the severity of each. Over time, it was amazing how non-chalant I became over things such as door panels randomly falling off or failure of literally every power accessory at some point. The cam seal blew out in 2005 at 110k and, before I could swerve onto the shoulder and kill the engine- the engine killed itself. An '06 Mazda3 Grand Touring has proven much, much easier to live with...and almost as charming. =)

  • Beelzebubba Beelzebubba on Jun 26, 2008

    Forgot to mention this... I don't speak Italian, but after a while I decided it was time to learn at least a bit. Amongst far more colorful and occasionally blasphemous expletives, my first response to most problems is to blurt out, "For the love of God!" In the Alfa, that translated to "Per l'amor de Dio!" on a daily basis....I still use it at times just to confuse people. =) Maybe if and when I have issues with my Mazda, I'll learn to say it in Japanese?