Fiat 500: Icon In The Making Or Dead In The Water?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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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  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Aug 02, 2011

    Having test driven one of these, I find it a very fun little car and want one. From my readings on this car on various blogs, the demographics seem to be all over the map, mostly guys like me, middle aged and up and women too along with the young, it seems to appeal to MANY people of ALL ages. As it being a chick car, you gotta be kidding me. I'm working on being able to afford one soon. AS for the ad, I found it a pretty good start and we just now have 1 dealer in Washington officially open, 3 others not as yet with another one I think very close to opening soon. I've seen 2 of these in the wild and a week ago while checking out the one studio that's open, a young couple had just bought one and came in to pick it up (a pearla while sedan), an older couple in at least their 60's I think were going to buy the cabrio (in Mocha Latte no less) and it seems this dealer IS selling them and then I saw a dusty Prima Edizone drive in and back out. They ARE out there but I suspect they aren't at enough of a critical mass to be seen regularly yet, at least here in Seattle but I'm just now in the past couple of months seeing more of the Fiesta, the Mazda2 and the Focus, most of which ARE the hatchback variants - and the Focus has just come out. I do have to agree, with re-establishing a new dealer network, things taking longer than anticipated etc, the Fiat is just now coming into its own as the dealers reach critical mass in being open. I think they will survive and thrive, but being a new marquee, it's more of a challenge than it would be if simply a new model from an established make.

  • SPPPP SPPPP on Aug 02, 2011

    I think the 500 is a nice car, but it may have done a lot better if it came here 3 or 4 years ago. I saw it in Italy at that time and it seemed fresh then. It's a little behind the times now, I think. I also find the styling pretty feminine ... but not in a good way. The back half looks okay, but I think they should have revisited the front end for the American market.

  • Mjz Mjz on Aug 02, 2011

    Um, let's see. For July, FIAT sold over 3,000 500's with only 70 to 100 dealers. Ford sold over 5,900 Fiestas with a couple of THOUSAND dealerships. I think FIAT is doing just fine, and wait until the other half of the dealerships are a going concern!

  • Bryce Bryce on Aug 02, 2011

    The original 500 was a complete POS trading on non existent cachet isnt working VW and Mini are retro cars that embody cars people liked but the original 500 wasnt liked it was crap from day 1 markrting the new 500 by showing the awful original isnt going to sell to anyone who remembers Fiats of old.