By on December 10, 2015

2016 Fiat 500

New product is not fueling renewed American interest in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ namesake Fiat brand.

The 500X, the latest product added to Fiat’s U.S. lineup, was clearly the brand’s best-selling model in November 2015, but sales at the brand slipped three percent, a modest drop of 82 units. Rewind one year and Fiat’s lineup featured only two nameplates: the 500 with which the brand relaunched in 2011, and the 30-month-old 500L. Adding the 500X, a true subcompact crossover, brought in 1,833 buyers in November 2015.

But the 500 and 500L combined to generate 1,915 fewer sales in November 2015 than in November 2014, astounding losses for a brand which in November of last year suffered a twelve-month sales low.

The Fiat brand’s figures in November 2015 were worse.

As the U.S. auto industry reported a 1-percent overall increase and a 10-percent increase in the daily selling rate (November 2015’s auto sales calendar was two days shorter than November 2014’s), Fiat sales decreased to the lowest level since January 2013 — prior to the 500L and 500X launches. True, the Fiat brand’s daily selling rate in November 2015 was up 6 percent, but the brand’s 0.23-percent market share was lower even than the 0.24-percent result achieved back in January 2013.

The 500L’s inability to succeed prior to the 500X’s launch only served to suggest that the 500L would tank following the 500X’s arrival. Only in August of last year, when a stop-sale order slowed the 500L to just 33 units, have 500L sales been slower than they were in November 2015. Only 228 500Ls were sold last month, FCA says, an 80 percent, year-over-year decline. This low-water mark wasn’t for want of inventory. Automotive News says that Fiat dealers had 225 days of 500L supply at the beginning of November.

2016 Fiat 500L

The 500’s 51-percent drop to only 968 sales in November 2015 represented the first time since April 2011 – the 500’s first full month of U.S. availability – that 500 sales fell below 1,000 units. Not since October of last year have 500 sales increased on a year-over-year basis in the United States. That’s not to suggest that 2014 was kind to the 500. After sales of this core Fiat slid 18 percent in 2013, year-over-year volume slid 6 percent in 2014.

Through the first 11 months of 2015, Fiat 500 sales are down by a quarter, a loss of 7,823 sales in Fiat showrooms. The 500 is currently America’s 136th-best-selling vehicle, down 18 positions compared with this stage of 2014. As is the case with the 500L, there’s an abundant supply of 500s in the United States. Cars.com’s inventory listings currently display more than 5,000.

The 500X has certainly presented Fiat dealers with a viable alternative. This fraternal twin of the Jeep Renegade produced steadily increasing sales heading into November – from 324 in June to 2,178 in October – before slipping slightly in November, a lower-volume month for the industry overall. With 1,833 November sales, the 500X trailed the Nissan Juke (and a handful of other subcompact crossovers) but easily outsold the Mazda CX-3 and Mini Countryman.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus

In the FCA U.S. empire, Fiat is an increasingly inconsequential element. Only 2.6 percent of the new vehicles sold by Fiat Chrysler in the United States in 2012 were Fiats, but that figure has fallen to 1.9 percent in 2015’s first 11 months; just 1.7 percent in November. Sixteen different FCA nameplates outsell the whole Fiat brand in America, from every Jeep – including the Renegade – to every Chrysler and every Dodge except the Viper.

Though initially a hot seller, the 500 wasn’t a brand new design by the time North Americans were permitted to buy the car. Never has the 500L been anything other than ignored, a situation only worsened by dreadful reliability ratings and the 500X’s launch. The 500X, meanwhile, is the curvaceously cute Italian crossover in a category topped by its own boxy, off-roadable American twin, the Renegade. And will the 124 Spider, a Mazda MX-5 Miata platform partner, be a car that can generate meaningful volume for the Fiat brand?

Not a chance.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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139 Comments on “Fiat Sales Are Crumbling In America...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You’d better JUST WAIT until all those new Alfas hit the showroom. They’ll be gone in like five seconds at $73K eack, not including $5K ADM. Then Fiat/Alfa will have better sales figures than Ford!

    You’ll see.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Setting Fiat up with its own dealerships was a stupid idea.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        They should have been added as a side item to available space in regular Dodge dealerships. Not like Chrysler hasn’t had a history of AMC/Renault/Plymouth/Jeep/Eagle/Dodge/Ram/SRT brand cross-pollination anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I completely agree and the Fiat 500 would have fit well in this model because it did not share any components or compete with any other FCA product (except perhaps the Avenger/Dart on price and I know which one I’d take).

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          The Chrysler/Plymouth dealer where I grew up in the 60’s-70’s carried Simca’s and the local Dodge dealer sold Sunbeam/Rootes group. FCA could have added Fiat to their dealer network like a so-called Captive Import but I guess they wanted to go the whole Mini like separate dealer “lounge, salon” route.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Actually, I think it was a good idea to separate the dealerships, but the product mix hasn’t been there.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          My local FIAT dealer is not even owned by the local Chrysler store. It’s owned by the Chevy store and located in their back 40 parking lot. Probably not that unusual a situation.

          • 0 avatar

            Which means, if I understand correctly, the local ChryCo store was offered Fiat and turned it down.

            I think that’s happened a lot. Perhaps the Chevy store had a spare building in which to house Fiat. FCA wanted dealers to front $1M for a new building/lot, not wanting to sell Fiat alongside FCA’s other offerings. That’s a LOT to ask for the ONE model they’d be selling until the X and L variants came along.

            Now I believe Sergio’s asking the same thing for Alfa-Romeo which will be even more of a non-starter.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The Chevy store built a brand-new FIAT specific building. And they are doing reasonably well, at least so they say. It’s a low overhead operation. Just the little building (two Fiat showroom), and a couple of sales dudes. The Chevy store handles all the finance and service operations. Seems like the right approach to a niche car.

      • 0 avatar
        b534202

        I like my local Fiat dealer. They also sell Ferraris and Maseratis so its pretty classy.

      • 0 avatar
        woodyracing

        I work at a Fiat studio and I disagree strongly with this. If you look at dealers that are the most successful, it’s not the ones that are stuck onto the side of a Chrysler dealer, it is the independent dealers that are really pushing the brand and building value in it. Not all, but a LOT of the Fiat studios directly attached to a Chrysler store are the ones that sell one or two a month, if that. Chrysler people in general (again, not all) suck at selling Fiats or actively don’t want to sell Fiats so they just sit. Our studio is now a Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Fiat studio and it is helping our sales on all brands a ton. We can’t keep the Alfas for more than a day, Maseratis are doing pretty well and you don’t have to sell a ton of them to make good money, and our Fiat traffic is improved having these other brands here. With a Fiat studio attached to a Chrysler store, you have to bank on people that want a small European hatchback going to a Dodge dealer and then you have to have Mopar guys sell the customer on a small European hatchback. It’s hard to quantify all the ways in which none of that adds up to selling Fiats successfully.

        Life is definitely tough for a Fiat dealer, without a doubt, but I don’t think being attached to a Chrysler dealer is remotely the answer.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Woodyracing, only goes to show that the old saying, “affiliation by association” applies to selling cars as well.

          Maserati and Alfa Romeo lend the panache to Fiat that Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/RAM lack.

  • avatar

    I have no idea why SMALL CARS with boring SMALL ENGINES would do poorly in America!

    Aren’t all the usual loudmouths excited about the MANEWALLL transmission?

    • 0 avatar
      Occam

      THE Civic DOES well IN the UNITED States, AS well AS the COROLLA. It SEEMS like SMALL cars DO well WHEN they AREN’T Fiat-CHRYSLER’S worst BUILT cars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Civic and Corolla sit on a much bigger footprint than their predecessors as a response to the US market. Both originally were in a similar class to Fiat 500, so it seems “small” doesn’t always cut it.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Indeed. As well, when Civic/Corolla came out, ALL Japanese cars were small – so it was an either/or situation.

          Want large car – buy American.
          Want small car – Japanese.

          Now, everybody makes small and large cars, so offering only one small thing (when really ALL cars have grown larger in general) won’t cut it in the US.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Not Really. The Fiat 500 is a size smaller than the Civic and Corolla ever were. It is only 140 inches long with a 90 inch wheelbase. The Civic from the early 80s was still bigger than that. The 3rd gen Civic went out of production twenty years before the 500 made it’s debut.

          I mean, we are talking forever ago that the Civic and Corolla were 500 size.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Precsily the point, in the twenty five years since Civic and Corolla were enlarged by their mfgs due to market demand to be near the size of Accord and Camry of the earlier period. BTSR is right in saying small cars are not always a success in the USDM and 500 is yet another example.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            What’s the definition of “success”? I doubt in their wildest wetdreams Fiatsler thought that the 500 was going to do anything like Civic/Corolla volumes. They were doing MINI volumes for a while, which I think is pretty good for a small niche car. They are probably STILL outselling the 2dr hatch MINI, though not the 11,000 added variations.

            The problem now is that the original 500 is getting a little stale. I also think they really need to make the 1.4t the standard motor in the base 500 – while I and Vulpine find the n/a 1.4 more than acceptable, I fully understand that most people would not. The 500L SHOULD have done OK, but it is a little goofy looking and the Slovakian build quality did it no favors initially. That should have been something Panda styled rather than trying to look like a giant 500. The 500X is a tad overpriced, and has a hard row to how against the Jeep Renegade, which is butcher, more practical, says “JEEP” on it, and available in a lot more stores.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            The first generation Civic was 139.8 inches long on an 86.6 inch wheelbase. It was smaller and much lighter than a current Fiat 500.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Right, but that was over 40 years ago.

            My point was that the Civic and Corolla have had they’re current formula since the early 90s. Sure they’ve gotten bigger, but cars have to be bigger to fit everything that the marketplace wants and governments demand. You can’t cram an infotainment system, ABS, ESC, 10 airbags, crumple zones, ability to pass 2015 crash tests, and more into a 1973 Civic. The small overlap crash test would tear a first gen Civic open.

            The Renault Alliance has basically the same front and rear legroom as the current Toyota Camry (Alliance also had 10 in shorter wheelbase and is 25 in shorter length). Comparing the size of cars from two, three, or four decades ago to cars from today is often taken out of context.

        • 0 avatar
          Occam

          If the article were about just the 500, I’d agree. Fiat sales include the 500L, which is roomier than the Civic and Corolla.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you Occam. I like you.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I am surprised that the 500 doesn’t sell better in the big cities. It’s the ideal size to scoot around a metropolis.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I see a fair number of them here in Denver.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I think the problem is that it isn’t much better at scooting around cities than the Fit, Yaris, Sonic/Spark, or Fiesta.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          It’s a whole lot more fun though, especially in Abarth tune.

          They make me smile whenever I see one, from the basest Pop to an Abarth. And that is reason enough for them to exist. I’ll own another one at some point. Ideal dingy for the snowbird RV I plan to buy in the next few years.

          • 0 avatar
            Timothy Cain

            To your point re: Mini sales vs. Fiat sales. 21,773 2-door Mini hardtops and convertibles sold so far this year in America (including 2951 convertibles. Mini also sold 13,942 4-doors, 1099 Roadsters, 455 Coupes, and 28 Clubmans.) 500 pips the 2-door/convertible total with 23,583.

            http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2015/12/usa-vehicle-sales-by-model-november-2015-ytd.html

          • 0 avatar
            mik101

            Compared to a Fiesta ST an Abarth is a toy Khrodes… Try driving them back to back.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Mik101

            I drove them back-to-back. The Fiesta is without a doubt a better CAR in some ways. The Abarth is a better TOY. So I don’t disagree with you, but I was in the market for a toy. Way more smiles per mile with the Fiat, but a little too manic to be my only car. Also, the negotiated price difference was HUGE, as there were decent incentives on the Abarth and the ST had just debuted – the local dealer was quite proud of it.

            But I wouldn’t want a Fiesta ST as my only car either, I would have a Focus ST or a GTI. And I am reasonably certain a GTI would win that fight with me.

      • 0 avatar

        “I’m surprised the 500 doesn’t sell better in the big cities. It’s the ideal size to scoot around a metropolis.”

        Imagine the average person buying a car in America is a big person or needs trunk space to haul their stuff for one moment.

        • 0 avatar
          DevilsRotary86

          When I was looking for a car in 2012, I test drove the 500. It was nice and had enough room up front for my wife and I, and my daughter could fit easily in the back seat. And my wife was pleasantly surprised that the trunk was adequate if not generous. I just didn’t like how it sat (too tall, too upright), so I kept looking.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I am 6’2 and ~350lbs on a bad day. I fit just fine in a Fiat 500, and it is one of the easiest cars there is to get in and out of. Big doors, kitchen chair seats. Fold the back seats down and there is a ton of cargo space. Even with the seats up, there is plenty of room for two airline roll-a-board bags and some soft bags.

          The 500 simply is not really that small. It is almost exactly the size of an original VW Rabbit. Just everything else has gotten ridiculously large. Obviously it is not as space efficient as the Tardis-like FIT, but it is a lot more fun. I don’t do dreary boring cars.

        • 0 avatar
          360joules

          Front seat room is quite good for Americans who gravitate to the big & tall racks. The manual shift drivetrain of the 500 is pretty solid.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I see plenty 500’s here in the NYC area, much fewer 500L’s. I’m surprised the Juke is outselling the 500X. The 500X seems like a much better package and is far better looking. However it was only introduced a few months ago so it mighty pick up sales in 2016.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          MRF 95 T-Bird, in spite of that, not enough were sold to make the 500-series a success.

          Hence the title of this article, “Fiat Sales Are Crumbling In America…”

          I can understand the 500s not selling well in the wide open spaces. They are tiny.

          But for the citified folks, it would seem to me that everyone would want one “City Car” to be a part of their fleet.

          OTOH, my brother who lives in the Manhattan section of NYC, continues to cling onto his F-150 and his wife’s Camry.

  • avatar
    Tarditi

    Everyone who wanted one got one… MINI still does pretty well in that space.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    This is the usual progression of all niche/low-volume vehicles. Good sales for the first year or two until the pent-up demand is satisfied, then a steady trickle of people who didn’t buy during the early rush for whatever reason.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    They market this as an Italian car, but it is “Hecho en Mexico”.

    Consumer Reports ranks “Fix it again Tony” dead last in reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      If you told me you bought a Cooper S over a 500 Abarth because of “Fiat’s reliability,” I wouldn’t believe you.

      One look at the MINI forums will tell you enough about the cars’ problems; you would think they are even worse than BMW and certainly not any better than Fiat.

  • avatar
    MRx19

    I actually kind of feel sorry for Fiat in America. Actually sorta like the 500X , but would never buy one. Far to many better choices. Other than that, the 500 was always too small and now getting long in the tooth. The 500L just plain ugly. Combine that with a dealer group going crazy with large investments and no volume product to sell, as Alfas continue to be pushed into the future. Not a rosy picture.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I agree, the L is pretty homely. I’d check out the X if I were shopping. Probably not the right car for me, but it’s numbers aren’t bad and I wouldn’t be surprised if they improve.

  • avatar
    nguyenvuminh

    I’ve always thought Fiat and Chrysler deserve each other. Weak man of Europe and weak man of US. Both are great at creating iconic cars that are low volume. Their product reliability is historically questionable at best. They are not known for technology innovation. Their savings grace is that they have one strong brand in their stable (Ferrari and Jeep). Macchione is right in that the car industry has an excess capacity problem, but the weaklings that need to disappear/be acquired is Fiat and Chrysler.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    Honestly, I think the number one thing hurting Fiat’s sales would be reliability, or the predicted lack thereof. Lots of people will rely on Consumer Reports’ ratings and nothing else to make car-buying decisions. That, and there are lots of folks who still remember the Fiats of yore that spawned the phrase “Fix it again, Tony.” I’m sure there are several younger people interested in some type of Fiat that were swayed into a different brand based on the memories of older friends and family members that may have had a rusty little Fiat in the ’70s.

  • avatar
    SwagWagon

    It would be an understatement to say that Fiat’s supposed failure here in the United States has confused me. I see dozens of Fiats driving around here in my city every day. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I see more 500s around here in a day than I see Beetles and Mini Coopers combined. However, about six months ago my city lost its Fiat dealer because of “slow sales”? How on Earth do I see so many of them whilst the company flounders?! It just doesn’t add up.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The demographics of your area likely trend toward young and female.

      • 0 avatar
        SwagWagon

        My metro area is mostly older people, I live in a very conservative Midwestern state. I would assume that Fiats would sell even better in younger parts of the country.

        As a side note, I will admit I’ve never seen a 500L or 500X on the road, just a gob of 500s.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Why go through all that trouble of words when you could just -say- what state you live in?

          • 0 avatar
            SwagWagon

            Because I was using this comment section for a school assignment and I didn’t want to get a lecture from my Business Tech professor about “Being safe online”.

            I live in Kansas City.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m telling!

            Ahh KC, the two-state city.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            And apparently K.C. is the garden of Eden, and is the place where Jesus comes back, according to Mormons (If I got that wrong, please excuse me).

            Hope he stays in town long enough to get some Arthur Bryant’s and catch a Royals game.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I have only heard good things about KC! Maybe I’ll end up there sometime, as we have a business partnership with some friendly people who have their HQ there.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            Only two things come out of Kansas City.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            “Only two things come out of Kansas City”

            F150s and Transits?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    It doesnt help Fiat when they only sell one model, the 500, in like 500 pointless variants.

  • avatar

    I still can’t get over the commercial that showed that the 500L was the 500 on Viagra. Regardless of it’s other side effects, does Viagra make a person bloated, awkward, and disproportionate? Not to mention they are not even on the same platform.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      No, but it can make you deaf and blind, like it did Rush Limbaugh several years back, right after he got married.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        And I thought he just got sick of looking and listening to himself!

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          He blamed it on meds. I guess Viagra is a prescription drug. I don’t know.

          I’ve never had to use it, so far. But I have heard commercials about four-hour erections.

          That’s gotta be painful and could cause permanent damage to both parties.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Yeah, the joke around the office a few years back was that “if you have a four hour erection, call your doctor AFTER you cancel all your afternoon meetings and run home for a nooner.”

            But it’s actually REAL bad news – blood builds up in there and since it can’t get back out, the tissues get deprived of oxygen and can become necrotic. They have to drain the blood with a needle.

            And, no, I’m not speaking from experience, thank God.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Funny joke!

            But seriously, I hope never to be forced to go that route.

            I believe that most men and women don’t care how they get there, as long as they go.

            But like driving, getting there in style has a lot going for it too.

          • 0 avatar
            April S

            I heard it Oxycontin.

            Lots of Oxycontin…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The problem that is faced by most niche vehicles of this sort is that those who want them buy them during the first few years and don’t buy them again. So not only is the audience limited, but the buyer pool isn’t that loyal.

    “Though initially a hot seller…”

    I’m not sure where you got that idea, but it initially under performed projections. From November 2011:

    _______________

    But in the US, the Fiat 500 is off to a dismal start since launching in March, reports Larry Vellequette at AutoNews. It initially expected to sell 50,000 units in the first year, but so far, it’s only at 15,000. In fact, 29 of its 130 US stores didn’t sell a single one last month.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/fiat-500-failing-in-the-us-2011-11

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Projections aren’t the only means by which one would determine heat, or else a Toyota prediction that the Camry would sell 650K a year would mean the Camry, at 400K+/year, wasn’t a hot seller.

      The first year 500 projection was silly, because it was far from a full year and availability took way too long to ramp up. Fiat sold 44K 500s in 2012, just off Mini’s Cooper pace and well ahead of the Beetle. Of course, Mini’s product range was far larger. For this type of car, selling around 4K/month for much of 2012 is, in my book, sufficiently warm. Moreover, sales were steadily rising, with the 500 producing year-over-year sales gains in the first 15 months in which YOY comparisons were valid.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You could have just admitted that you were incorrect and left it at that.

        The volumes were not high, nor were the projections met. Nobody thought that it was “hot,” including the company that produced it. On the contrary, it got off to a slow start.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I kind of want to drive a 500, but I don’t want to own one. I looked at leasing, but the residuals are so lousy that the leases are ridiculous.

    OTOH, AutoTrader is full of low-miles examples at under $9k. Maybe I’ll buy one of those and abandon it when it dies.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    We have a Fiat dealership in my neck of the woods–part of a Penske owned multi-brand monstrosity that takes up one side of an entire highway exchange. It’s a university town with a high hipster quotient, but every other dealership in town ALWAYS has a used one or more, most of which seem to have less than 10,000 miles. I’m guessing people buy them and then aren’t happy.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    over 20K on my 500 sport and not a single problem!
    Other than Safelite forgetting to hook up the windshield washer when they replaced the windshield.
    I don’t know where all the BAD REVIEWS come from since I have never been sent a questionnaire about my experience..and I bought new. Where do they get these ‘owners reports’ from?
    Car works great ..and I got a good deal when I purchased..I get favorable comments often(try that with a Spark or similar) and heck its not a BMW,nor tries to be.
    I am just glad Fiat has a presence in the states now since between BMW and MB what other chance can an ordinary person experience a European brand

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      My wife’s 500L is also on 20k miles with no problems, but that’s not really a convincing story.

      There are plenty of 500s rolling around with upwards of 70k miles and no major problems.

      We’re not expecting Toyota Corolla levels of reliability, but I still don’t understand why some people remain fixated on the reputation of 1980s Fiats.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, after having driven a 500 a couple of years back, I can tell you firsthand why Fiat is failing: the car sucks. Fun to fling around, but the engine was very poorly matched with the manual, which was one of the worst I’ve ever experienced (long throws + imprecision = fail), and that killed it for me.

    Apparently the Abarth versions are better, but for a few grand more, a base GTI makes vastly better sense.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The Abarths are way better. And I don’t really mind the regular one, either.

      A big problem for Fiat, is that their de factor target market are young, fashion savvy urbanites. Problem is, those people aren’t into cars, and are the first to be turned off by any little detail going wrong. They bought the darned thing because it matched their Iphone and their organic hemp designer Portland hat. And, the Fiat does start getting pretty rattly in not too long.

      Honda is catching a “similar”, although perhaps more moderate, demo with the Fit. And keeping them, since despite not being the coolest car on the block, the Fit never give non-car-guy urbanites any reason to be mad at it. No niggles, no “it’s too small for that suitcase”, just nothing. Which equates to more time spent goofing off with the Iphone.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    This explains why FCA fired their US Fiat VP last month.

    It’s easy enough to figure-out Fiat’s problems in the US.

    The 500 is selling better than expected for a specialty car deep into its product cycle.

    The 500L is ugly and half-baked. Europeans buy it with their eyes closed because “it’s the Golf-segment Fiat,” but that doesn’t work in the US where Fiat is a new brand.

    The 500X looks just like a $15k 500, but it lists for twice that amount, once you load it with the options that consumers expect in a crossover. It would sell if it looked different/stylish. The Renegade sells like hotcakes, and it’s the same car, sold in the same dealerships (mostly).

    Lots of positives though.

    The 500 has vastly outsold any projections. People were predicting an immediate and humiliating failure, but they are everywhere and are holding-up rather well. They also move for thousands more than Sparks and Fiestas.

    Fiat is the only Big 3 brand that appeals to “import shoppers.” Every other Big 3 brand is just a piece of a diminishing pie, fighting over the few shoppers who haven’t switched to imports yet, or who can only afford the very cheapest new car in town.

    Fiat is a “no cost” brand. They are on the FCA boat, so it costs almost nothing to support them. They probably still turn a healthy profit even at low volumes.

    We will have to wait and see what the new head of Fiat USA does, but it seems like any fair-to-good auto exec could right the ship. They need new product that doesn’t look overpriced (or grossly deformed!), and some good marketing. They should have had a version of the Dart platform in dealerships already, stealing sales from the Jetta. They need to bring the Panda over. They need to offer great interiors in all their cars. They need to bring that small pickup over. Most of all, they need leadership.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      I’d say that Fiat is costing them some significant money. They’ve had to set up completely separate tooling for the NA 500 vs the European version, the 500L and 500X have changes that cost $$ to meet federal safety standards.

      Don’t get my started on the 500L—I believe an auto magazine had one where they could barely get it into gear because of there was an electrical issue with the gear shift.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        The 500 sold well and surely recouped its initial tooling investment. Don’t forget the Mexican-built 500 is also sold in other non-European markets.

        Don’t know about the 500L, but the 500X and Renegade were designed to be US-compliant from the start.

        To my mind, the whole US Fiat lineup is just like a band that puts-out a “greatest hits” album. There are costs involved, but they are insignificant by industry standards.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Jeep also appeals to import shoppers and if they need a pick-up I betcha Ram does too.

  • avatar
    wario

    The Fiat 500 is the size of car I need to buy, but buying a vehicle made by FCA seems like you are inviting a mountain of problems into your life.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      If you live in America you have a choice of several cars of this size, with the best, some say, being the Honda Fit.

      Personally I’d stay away from Nissan products, but others seem to favor products from Toyota over those from GM and Ford. Mini is just too expensive because of its BMW ownership.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “Mini is just too expensive because of its BMW ownership.”

        There’s definitely a price to pay but they are enjoyable cars to drive. Look good, feel good and built well. Worth it to me but I can see why others might go a different way.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          I read some time ago that the popularity of the Mini skyrocketed after the release of the movie “The Italian Job”.

          The scenes of Charlize Theron driving that Mini got everyone’s attention.

  • avatar

    As you can see, Fiats sell about 40-48k/yr. Period. You could probably have another eight uglified variants of that platform and you’d barely crack 50k.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m surprised its that many.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I think 40-48K is pretty close to actual sales/yr, but I really don’t know. I know of no one in my area with a multiple-car household that owns a 500 but I have seen them parked at the University Campus, so there are people who buy them.

        Regardless, that number is but a drop in the bucket of an 18+Million SAAR and not sustainable for Fiatsler were it not for high-profit products like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, RAM pickup truck and Chrysler 300.

        IMO the 500 is a loss-leader. OTOH, if Sergio were to lower the price of the 200 and the minivans, there may be more people persuaded to give them more than a second look. And if they decide to buy, that would add ca-ching to the cash register at Fiatsler.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      @FB

      I will be in Miami in Feb. If you still have that XJ8 I may have to drive across the state and demand some seat time.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Regarding the commentary above about small car volume (Civic/Corolla) vs the 500. I don’t think its the fair comparison. A Civic or Corolla makes a decent only car. The 500, in my opinion does not.

    My point, whenever I need a rental in that class, I always take a 500 if available. They are a blast to drive around town a few days with the throttle pinned non-stop. I think they probably make a great secondary vehicle. That said, they have a lot of little really annoying flaws that would stop me from buying one.

    That said, I’d probably take an Abarth, to bomb around the city, and ignore the flaws for the attitude.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      To be honest the 500 doesn’t make sense in Suburbia USA. Even living in US metro areas most families would need a larger car to get people to places.

      An Abarth would be a great second car, or only car for an urban downtown resident.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        We have a big enough main car (which will some day be a main truck) and no kids (or intention for kids), which is why I’d like an Abarth as our second car.

        I can definitely see larger families wanting two more cargo friendly vehicles though.

      • 0 avatar
        Occam

        Of course the 500 doesn’t make sense for a family. It’s a small zippy car intended for fun, looks, and novelty. At this moment, there are 73 comments on the Camaro review, and not one of them mentions how it’s too cramped for a family. Not one mentions how it’s not the best for suburbia. I haven’t seen this type of comment in reviews of the FR-S (which has almost exactly the same interior and cargo volumes).

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The Camaro is too cramped for a family. I’ll cross that bridge. I’ll even post it in the Camaro review if you want me to.

          The only reason I don’t have a 2 door pony car is that I do not know if my wife and I want another kid. I’d buy one if I knew we were done.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          It doesn’t NOT make sense for a family, as a second car. If we replace 500 with FRS, Camaro, what have you, it doesn’t change the discussion.

          Growing up with two brothers, we had a k-car and a reg cab truck. A primary people hauler, and a 3 seater. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but we got along just fine. In today’s era, if someone has a CUV and a sports car, I think its perfectly legit, just that people dont seem to make that choice as much.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I grew up with a regular cab/extended cab with no rear seats truck and an random weird other car (Renault Alliance, K-Cars, Eagle Premier, $hit like that).

            I cannot fit two forward facing car seats in the back of a 500, or Camaro for that matter, and drive the vehicle. It is the reality of the safety world we live in. When my daughter is out of her car seat and into a booster seat, I would have to saw her legs off at the knees for her to be able to sit behind me in a 500 or Camaro. When I had a 500 rental, she was able to touch my face with her shoes while in her car seat.

            I have to put the car seat in the middle of a Camaro/500/FR-S. If I put it behind the driver’s seat, I can’t drive. If I put it behind the passenger seat, my wife can’t sit there.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The typical driveway in my suburban neighborhood has one crossover/SUV and one compact/subcompact. I think a lot of families understand that you don’t need to buy the same car twice.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I don’t think most people buy two of the same cars. In my circle of friends, the wife typically drives a small or midsized CUV and the husband drives some sort of sedan or crew cab truck (include Wrangler in truck category).

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Right, I forgot about modern bunker sized child seats. Even still, bball, if you really wanted a sports car, why not just leave the seats in the Lincoln and trade cars whoever is driving the kids around?

            I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do or anything, Im just saying that if someone prioritizes a mix that includes a utility vehicle and a “fun” vehicle, its doable.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Because I drop off the kid at daycare and my wife picks up. I assume that with two kids, that current arrangement would remain unchanged.

            I need a bigger garage…

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Makes sense! And yes! Bigger garage and more toys is the obvious (and awesome) answer!

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            I was just pondering this discussion, and it really makes the appeal of the FiST, FoST, GTI, etc clear. Fun, fits a car seat normally.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s definitely the draw. I’ve owned both the FoST and GTI, so I get why people buy them. I would like something more sporting in general, but I’m too cheap to rid myself of the otherwise excellent C-Max. It’s a better daily driver than either my FoST or GTI ever were. Personally, I think Ford just needs to ST and RS all the things. Transit Connect RS! AWD, 2.3T, drift mode, and van!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I agree with you 100%. A couple of years ago, I wanted a cheap, fun, third car that would also do a bit of autocross duty. Looked at the Abarth, Fiesta ST, Focus ST, and Golf GTI. Every one of them would be a better car than an Abarth as an only car, none of them was more FUN than an Abarth. All were also rather more expensive. So I bought the Abarth, kept it two years, had my fun with it and sold it on. Cost me ~$4K for two years of fun. No regrets at all, and I would do it again. Not a single problem with the car.

      They are a perfect second or third car. Cheap, frugal, stylish, not a penalty box in any way. Enough room for two plus somebody in the back in a pinch. Not intended to be a family’s only car, at least in the US where Dog Forbid you don’t have a Canyonero to drive around.

    • 0 avatar
      Occam

      The blog was about Fiat Sales as a whole. Big truck dude wrote ” have no idea why SMALL CARS with boring SMALL ENGINES would do poorly in America!” The Civic/Corolla comparison makes sense when the fiat line includes cars both larger and smaller. The most obvious reason for sales struggles is the bad press in CR, JDP, etc.

  • avatar
    Chan

    One major problem with Fiat in the US is marketing.

    The 500 doesn’t need to be discussed. It has sold very well and even outsold its Mini counterpart for some time. It’s an old car now, having been released in Europe in 2007. Small cars are a niche market in the land of Suburbia.

    The 500L, aside from its awkward looks, suffers from lack of awareness. Rather than showing it with partygoers who typically can’t afford new cars, it needs to be shown with families, with cargo. It needs to be shown with people using those REAR DOORS. The marketing campaign has just been wrong.

    The 500X has been increasing its sales gradually as it really looks to be the Fiat that Americans want. However, market awareness is still very poor. Fiat needs more advertising space.

    Every time I mention Fiat, the people I am talking with can only think of the small 500.

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    History is usually a predictor of the future. Fiat=Junk

  • avatar
    MWolf

    For me, Fiat just doesn’t fit the bill. I imagine most others feel the same way. It doesn’t appeal to my tastes. Is it cute? Yeah, kinda. Except for the obese version. But I don’t care for the interior, it doesn’t seem practical for my uses, possible reliability issues, and that cute wears off fast with nothing to back it up.

    If I were in the market for a small car, I wouldn’t persue it for the reason of novelty. It would be more about funtionality and necessity. Fiat appeals, by default, to a very limited market.

    To me, they seem perfect if driving is either optional or just for kicks. So no, not surprised at all that it’s tapering off. There currently isn’t a Chrysler product that makes me swoon, either. The 300 is ok, Jeep got weird, and there are far netter choices.

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    How many out there remember the Fiat 128, Fiat 850, or Strada? What can we say? Quality? Reliability? LOL….. Fiat had a second chance, but has failed once again. Pininfarina made the 124 Coupe and Spyder work in the 70s but time has run out for the brand in the US.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I recall the big to-do back at time of launch in 2011 with the 500’s stiffer floorpan and specially sourced automatic for the US market. Has it been worth it?

    I heard 500 production move from Mexico to Poland.

  • avatar
    Funky

    The Fiat dealership in my area disappeared/went under and it was never replaced. If I recall correctly, it disappeared around the 3rd Quarter of 2014. Earlier that year I tried to buy a 500L but I could not find one in the color and option combination of my choice. The dealer tried to locate my first, second, and third choices but could not find what I wanted. They also told me it was not possible to place an order for exactly what I wanted. Since that time, out of curiosity, I have tried, unsuccessfully (on Autotrader and Cars.com), to find a 500L in either my first, second, or third choice combinations, but have not found any. If FIAT wants to sell 500Ls, FIAT should have a good selection of vehicles available in their inventory (and they need to have dealers to sell and service the cars).

    I also agree with the comment above, from Chang, that the 500L should be marketed to families and in addition in “non-trekking”/non-cladded form so that families can envision themselves in the vehicle.

    And on a side note, small off-set crash safety should be improved. The 500L does well in all crash tests except for the small offset.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Amazes me that Fiat US managed to flog just over 1800 of the 500X in November, while Mazda sold only 1323 of the CX-3.

    Here in Canada, Mazda sold 801 CX-3 in November, while Fiat sold, wait for it, a whole 48 of the 500X. (Honda sold 1200 or so HRV)

    Forty-eight vehicles, which gives you some idea of what a wretched beast it really is. Canadians know small cars and have rejected this pile of you know what. The companion toad Jeep Renegade sold just 334, while Americans slurped up 7,345.

    I could make invidious comparisons, but why bother. All figures from Cain’s site. Best page is:

    http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2015/12/small-suv-crossover–sales-in-canada-november-2015.html

    because all models are clickable and send you to the US/Canada page total sales for each vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      wmba, I would argue that the 500X and Renegade aren’t wretched, they are just way overpriced in Canada.

      My local dealer has a “fully loaded” 500X on display with a sticker over $36,000! That will get you into a Q3.

  • avatar
    April S

    Our local Fiat dealership has been owned by the same family for 40+ years. Over most of this time their bread and butter has been is selling late model Jeeps while on the new car side they sold some sort of import (for a time Mitsubishi and before that Alfa Romeo and Bertone).

    They have scores of new and used 500’s plus many new 500L and 500X’s on their crowded lot.

    Anyway, I hope they can be successful this time around.

    P.S. I looked at the 500 and 500L but passed on them. The 500 is just too tiny for my needs while the interior on the 500L appears it would be tough to keep nice (the arm rests plus door handle surrounds are cloth while a large part of the dash is covered in some sort of fabric). Would not do well in my dusty world.

    P.P.S. The need to use premium grade fuel would be a negative for many people.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Our dearly beloved 500e is in the shop for an extended stay–it’s got a bug so rare and elusive that the Fiat engineers are studying it. Eventually they’ll either figure it out or lemon-law us into another one, but in the meantime the dealer has given us their 500L service loaner to use.

    Weeks in, can confirm: The 500L is a family car. The elevated rear bench and wide-opening door are ideal for child seats, the big cargo hold is ideal for strollers. They need to market to families; parents will “get it.”

    More than anything though, the car strikes me as the modern 1968 VW Bus: Tall roof, big doors, super roomy, flat high-mounted seats, 360-degree visibility, bullnose styling so ugly it’s cute with the right two-tone paint job, and good MPG for a brick thanks to a tiny engine.

    Unlike the Bus, it’s cheap to buy, extremely stylish inside, available with a very good stereo, and unlikely to cost you both legs in a wreck.

    My favorite features: big bright cornering lamps that automatically come on whenever useful (e.g. reversing), and a kinda-cool engine note.

    Despite the turbo and the robotized manual transmission though, it’s not fast enough to be fun. Perhaps Fiat will migrate it to the 2.4 Tigershark/million-speed transmission like the 500X.

    More likely they’ll kill the model. Not many people are shopping for a microvan, and for those who are, a Kia Soul is a more obvious choice. Or, for the same money, a lightly used Ford C-Max Hybrid is faster, better to drive, and gets better MPG.

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    First Renault, then Daimler, now Fiat. Who they gonna sell the lemon to next, HonQi?

    As for the Renegade, that mofo is just plain FUGLY. Mrs. Fahr is in a quandary as to what she would replace her ’05 ChickJeep Liberty with when it needs to find a new home.

  • avatar
    davefonz164

    My father just picked up a manual 500L Sport leftover for under 15k$ with full warranty and loves it to bits. He much prefers it over his previous Nissan Rogue. So far the car has been great and most friends and family seem to like much more than they thought they would, to the point where my best friend also picked up a manual 500L leftover and loves it for city driving. The car isn’t the sexiest thing on wheels, but its refined, drives well, pulls well and has loads of space. I can understand why Europeans like it so much.

    I currently drive a 2012 500 Sport and use it mostly in the city, couldnt be happier. These are great cars with character, something you wont find in a Yaris.

    I think the headline for this article is misleading, small cars in general arent doing well because Americans have access to cheap gas today. Under 2$ a gallon.

    Looking at the bigger picture, the Fiat 500 outsells its main key competitors, both in Canada and the USA. The new crop of cars is reliable and fairly robust, there are some areas that can use improvement, but anyone driving or owning a German car is in no position to say its unreliable (Ex BMW owner).

    If and when gas prices in the US rise, small cars will become more in vogue. For the moment Fiat NA needs to focus on marketing and dealership experience.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      Manual 500Ls are the best-kept secret for a cheap family hatchback. Nobody wants them because the 500L really is a family car and Fiat oversupplied the manual version.

      Dealers can’t wait to get rid of them.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    Why on earth would they use the 500 name on such different cars? That’s like Oldsmobile in the 80s, sticking “Cutlass” on damn near everything they built. I had no idea that the 500x is related to teh Renegade, until I read this article…I just assumed it was yet another overgrown 500 variant.

    I would not even dream of buying anything FCA builds…not even open to considering it. My wife blindly goes to the same Honda store each time, even the same salesman, although I think I may have gotten her to at least look at Hyundai this time…

    I have a more negative impression of FCA’s “American” brands than Fiat…and it’s more of a socioeconomic thing…if I bought a Dodge or Chrysler everyone would think I needed specical financing.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      I agree; the 500 name is a problem. I don’t understand why Fiat didn’t use 600 for a larger car–especially because 600 even has a history with Fiat as a larger car (600 Multipla of the 1960s).

      Calling everything “500” guarantees non-enthusiast shoppers will forever associate your brand with the small car.

  • avatar
    Dipstick

    So nobody here wants to be honest and admit that the problem with Fiat is image. The american buyer has a lot of insecurities concerning how he or she is perceived in his car. They will compromise lack of space, reliability and driving position when purchasing other cars but not Fiat. Nobody looks like a hero driving a 500.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      Odd, I see 500s fairly often during my commute in California.

      The 500L and 500X, the cars that really suit suburban American lifestyles, need more airtime. Nobody knows about them.

    • 0 avatar
      Occam

      I’d say Image is what helps it more than anything else. If someone is extremely concerned about image, but wants a small car, they don’t have many choices. There are the frumpy and sensible Fit, Versa, and Yaris. The “I have a credit score of 5” stigma that oozes over the Spark, Sonic, and Fiesta. The Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio… but nobody wants a Hun-kia unless it’s one of the loaded, expensive models, because those are the only ones that go against the narrative of “Do you have a job? Do you have $99?”

      If you want a tiny car with style, it’s either a trendy hatchback (and the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper own that world) or you go sporty and get a FR-S/BRZ or MX-5.

      The insecure types who are worried about being seen in anything smaller than a Tundra Bro-Dozer aren’t going to consider a small car anyway.

  • avatar

    I wonder how many of their sales are to rental fleets. The first Fiat 500L I saw in person was one a coworker got from Enterprise while his was being fixed from an accident. And they had originally tried to give him a regular 500, but he complained it was too small.

    Having a lifestyle/image brand with a lot of fleet sales seems like an awful idea. It makes them seem cheap, plus it means a bunch of used ones on the market cannibalizing sales from new ones.

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