Fiat 500 Marketing Watch: Re-Boot In The Works?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

After an early downturn in sales, it appeared that Fiat might be distancing its 500 from the Jennifer Lopez-dominated image that hasn’t been panning out so well. With the debut of the 500 Abarth at the LA Auto Show, the ad shown above kept the sex-factor high, but focused far more on the male market. Perhaps sensing a shift in direction, Bloomberg asked Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne last week if the brand’s boss Laura Soave would be keeping her job despite the weak sales. Still undecided, Marchionne replied in the affirmative

For the time being.

That was last Wednesday. Over the weekend, something seems to have changed…

Last night, Ms Lopez beat back the perception that Fiat was trying to move on with its marketing, by featuring a Cinquecento Cabrio in her American Music Awards performance. We’ll let the performance speak for itself, but suffice it to say that Ms Lopez broke new ground in the commercialization of the AMAs, garnering considerable attention for both herself and Fiat… and it wasn’t all positive either. Criticism began when several music stars took to Twitter to call the product placement “shameless” among other things. Questlove of The Roots provided what may have been the most widespread reaction, tweeting

Yo. I know I didn’t just see that dumb Fiat. I KNOW I didn’t just see that friggin’ Fiat.

And of course the media piled on, saying the performance “ destroyed whatever credibility she had left,” a “ scene could have been taken from the Detroit auto show,” “ the most cringe-inducing, embarrassing performance of the night,” a “ miscalculation,” and “ a car ad crossed with a striptease.” Considering that Lopez’s 500 ads have already been fairly widely ridiculed, it’s safe to say that this was almost certainly the culmination of the Fiat/JLo collaboration.

And even if JLo isn’t booted from the Fiat 500 marketing effort, there will be changes. Bloomberg reports that

Chrysler Group LLC’s head of the Fiat brand in North America, Laura Soave, is leaving the company and being replaced by Tim Kuniskis, a marketing executive, a person familiar with the situation said.

Jalopnik reckons the firing has something to do with

unsubstantiated rumors for a couple months now from sources knowledgeable of internal Chrysler politics that she was being investigated for a possible improper relationship with Michael D’Antonio, the CEO of former Fiat ad agency Impatto Custom Marketing.

More likely: Fiat is abandoning the disastrous JLo-theme marketing, and initiating a clean reboot of Fiat’s entire ad and brand strategies. In any case, it’s certainly tough to argue that Soave has had any real success thus far. Now the question is: can Fiat take another shot at the market? Will the market give it another shot? Or will the 500 be forever associated with JLo and this abortive relaunch marketing effort?

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  • Edmonds59 Edmonds59 on Nov 22, 2011

    I dig the "glamazon" ad, big time. But I dig the Carlo Abarth under the scorpion ad more. That one takes me from "like" the Abarth to "need" the Abarth.

  • Daviel Daviel on Nov 23, 2011

    I am considering getting the car AND an abarth scorpion tattoo.

  • Dukeisduke Only if there's a significant price difference between it and the Lexus GX. Otherwise, no. If they do bring it over, they'll have to ditch that ugly grille.
  • Theflyersfan Chris here just gave me a big old dose of nightmare fuel with this. Let me explain... This past Saturday, driving home after doing some furniture shopping. I-64 Westbound is closed for extensive repairs in my part of Louisville so I had to take surface streets home. No problem as it's basically a straight shot from said furniture store to my domicile. Now, I had that recent spinal fusion surgery in my neck complete with four screws, some plates, artificial bone, and the chance that things might not have healed correctly so things are a bit tender and sore still. Driving home in a part of the area named St. Matthews when I pass a Walgreens. Barreling out of this Walgreens and totally ignoring the stop sign, and situational awareness of ANYTHING around him is a truck, very similar to the one shown above. Same color even. It's a four lane road - main drag through town. I'm in the inside lane and this 7,000 pound monstrosity is suddenly feet from turning an MX-5 into shrapnel. Top is down, had my wits, quickly downshift and manage to do a wild u-turn like move into the oncoming traffic lanes but avoided the hit. The neck, however, didn't like the strain and trauma and sent parts of my body into fits of limited sensations and pain. The truck driver, realizing what he's done suddenly stops. My top is down, windows are down, and we make eye contact as I pull alongside the person I have suddenly wished death on inside a flaming pit. And if I repeat the sentences of what was yelled at that jack***es face, I'll be on insta-ban here in milliseconds. He yells over, "Man, I'm sorry...I didn't see ya!" Well, ***face, learn what a stop sign means and scan the scene first. And get something that you can see over and in front instead of the blind spots that hide everyone under the age of 14 in front of the truck. So, I'm all for forcing these overdone, oversized, overfed, overstyled, guzzling, tiny-genital compensating redneck wannabe road monsters taken out back and put to rest and we return to normalcy. Made it home hurting like hell and tests were done today to check for further injury. And that Mazda can turn and spin on a dime... Try that move in that Sierra AT4XBZQZW8! whatever.
  • Dukeisduke I've read stories about that air suspension system - insanely high pressures, and crazy expensive to repair. I loved the Mark VIII's styling back then, but it definitely hasn't aged well.Also:"Mark VII was the first Mark available with dual front airbags..." Did you mean Mark VIII?
  • Kwik_Shift With qualified AA Californians set to get a million reparation dollars each, Tesla sales should soar then. 😏
  • Dukeisduke Six figures for what's basically a four-wheeled Slingshot? I don't they'll get a lot of takers, at least for on-road use.Does it have ABS or traction control? I imagine it's a snap to break the wheels loose.