By on June 20, 2016

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus

Nearly one-third of the workforce at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ plant in Kragujevac, Serbia, was laid off last week because of poor Fiat 500L demand.

In the United States, the 500L is by no means the only Fiat that isn’t selling.

Besides the 500L’s sharp U.S. sales decline — year-over-year volume has tumbled each month in the last nine months — the core 500 model which brought Fiat back to life in the U.S. has lost nearly half its volume this year, a 6,288-unit loss through only five months.

Meanwhile, the expectation that a crossover could make up for the poorly received 500L and rapidly aging 500 turned out to be false. A crossover, yes, that will be the ticket. Surely a crossover could work wonders. A relative of the Jeep Renegade, only prettier, could definitely restore Fiat to the peak glory days of 2014.

Glory days, when with two models in its lineup, Fiat USA failed to match its stated goal of 50,000 annual sales for the 500 alone? Of course, that Sergio Marchionne sales forecast was way off target.

Just as the 500L and 500X have missed the mark, as well.

“Blame me,” Marchionne said at the time. And if Marchionne deserves the blame for overstating the Fiat 500’s possible U.S. success, it’s fair to give credit to Marchionne, FCA’s CEO, for some of the automaker’s U.S. success, as well. Emphasizing Jeep during an era of high SUV/crossover demand is turning out rather well.

2014 Fiat 500L Lounge

Yet one of the Jeeps that have made these record sales possible, the Renegade, is an unpopular and undesirable utility vehicle when it wears curvaceous bodywork and a Fiat badge. Sure, here at TTAC, we prefer the charming Fiat 500X over its boxy Jeep sibling. And yes, we all knew that Jeep, a powerhouse of a brand, would sell more Renegades than Fiat dealers would sell 500Xs.

But there was nevertheless a belief that despite cannibalizing the 500L, the Fiat 500X would find a healthy measure of U.S. interest. After all, the subcompact crossover market doubled in size last year and grew 60 percent in the first five months of 2016.

Only 3 percent of the subcompact crossovers sold in America so far this year were 500Xs, however. The Renegade, on the flip side, leads the category and claims one-fifth of its sales.

Heading into May, Automotive News reported that Fiat dealers had a 163-day 500X supply of nearly 7,000 units, or about the number of 500Xs Fiat sold in a five-month span. The industry’s average is 70 days.

To be fair, the 500X is more popular now than the 500L was at its peak, albeit not by much. Fiat sold 15,763 copies of the 500X over the last year, but only sold 14,128 copies of the 500L during its best 12-month stretch. However, 500X demand appears to already be fading, only one year into its lifecycle.

Fiat USA averaged more than 2,000 monthly sales in the fourth-quarter of 2015, but fewer than 1,300 per month since.

We’re talking about Dr. Jill Stein/Green Party levels of support here. As in the case of Dr. Stein, even if the 500X doubled its support base, it would still generate a scarcely measurable level of support. Presently, the 500X is America’s 75th-best-selling SUV/crossover, behind two Land Rovers, two Porsches, two Volvos, and two Lincolns, and 66 others.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

Moreover, the 500X’s additional sales aren’t really additions at all. While Fiat has added 6,300 500X sales in the U.S. so far this year, the Fiat brand has lost roughly 10,000 500 and 500L sales, meaning brand-wide volume is down 19 percent.

If a small crossover couldn’t bring Fiat USA’s fortunes back from the brink, a two-seat Mazda MX-5-based roadster likely won’t do the trick, either.

[Images: FCA]

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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122 Comments on “All Fiats Are Failing in America, Even the 500X Crossover...”


  • avatar

    “even if the 500X doubled its support base, it would still generate a scarcely measurable level of support. Presently, the 500X is America’s 75th-best-selling SUV/crossover, behind two Land Rovers, two Porsches, two Volvos, and two Lincolns, and 66 others.”

    Thanks for making me laugh hysterically.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Americans don’t want Fiats. FCA, please stop spending money on selling these vehicles here and build more Jeeps and trucks. A credible midsized sedan and compact car would also be a welcome sight.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think it has to do with gas prices and the economy. At one point, they were moving 44,000 500s a year.

      http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/fiat-500-sales-figures.html

      As gas prices have gone down, so have 500 sales. Makes sense.

      But, yeah, what case is there for Fiats now that gas is two bucks?

      I guess it gives the Fiat/Alfa “dealers” something to sell besides Maseratis.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      B-b-b-but, Sergio Marchionne and Olivier Francois are geniuses (just ask them)! Americans want Fiats, they’re just too stupid to know it.

      • 0 avatar

        Of course everybody in the world, including US elite and college graduates, knows that Americans are Stupid (that applies to Americans making this statement also). And yes it is rigorously proven that “Stupid American” postulate explains functioning of Universe better than standard model.

    • 0 avatar
      caruso81

      Thank you, sir. You are correct.

      This article is just a bunch of over analysis. The Fiat 500 in all of its iterations is simply a dumpster fire. It is the worst car I’ve ever owned, including a 1970s Pinto and an 01 Chevy Malibu. I count the days until I can trade it in and dread the next time I have to go somewhere in it. Noisy, tinny, cheap, falling apart inside and out are only some of the terms to describe it. The only thing good I can say about my Abarth is that I like the steering wheel which I can see better since the plastic trim covering the mechanicals has fallen off. Did I mention the car has only 19000 miles on it. At this point, I drive it to nice shopping centers and leave it sticking out in the vain hope someone will total it. (If I’m in it when it gets hit, I’m dead, so I have to be careful.)

      No one is buying it because it makes a Yugo look like an Aston Martin.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        Fun fact: the 500L is built in the former Zastava Motor Works factory, makers of the Yugo.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I’m curious. What are you looking to buy next? Have you learned from your mistake? I spoke to a Fiat driver yesterday who previously had 5 Peugeots, including one with a frame so flexible the cooling fan would regularly puncture the radiator. He seems proud that he has unusual taste in cars, even when everything he’s owned would make a fifteen year old Camry seem like a new S-class Mercedes-Benz.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        I saw a 500 Abarth up close on a dealers lot recently. It looked like it aged in dog years despite being a 40k mile 2014… And, depreciation was horrible, over 50% in 3 years based on used asking price…

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        I was interested in the Abarth for about 5 seconds. Then I realized a Mustang GT is cheaper and has a V8. If you have teenage kids that need to be taxied everywhere, it’s a no-brainer.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Where can you find that kind of deal on a GT? here in Canada, the V8 GT lists at $10K more than the Abarth.
          I know Ford pours-on the incentives, but that’s an unusually big chunk of cash, even for them.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Don’t worry, folks! Alfa is coming to save the day!!!

  • avatar
    VW16v

    More incentives and the new roadster should help out a bit. Considering the roadster is 1000 times better looking then the overgrown toenail looking front end of the Miata. Fiat could end up with real winner in the convertible category.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      So, the Miata is having it’s best year in awhile and it barely cracks 1000 units a month. What is Fiat going to sell? 300/month? 400? Four hundred would be an extra 4800 units a year, or 24 units per store.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        plus I can’t see the 124 being much of a moneymaker anyway. The transfer pricing from Mazda (complete with all of the Fiat-specific bits) must be rather hight.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          That’s a good point. I can’t see them hitting 5000 units a year in the US, and it can’t be making that much money per unit.

        • 0 avatar
          VW16v

          I can see the Fiat roadster breaking “Fiat” sales records. It will also not have to be heavily discounted like the Miata for those sales. Mazda has not done it yet. But, I forsee big discounts to move the 2016 Miata off the lots in the coming months.

          • 0 avatar
            SSJeep

            There is a whole generation of baby boomers that have fond (although misguided) memories of the 70s FIAT x1/9s that will probably snap these up like hotcakes. At least for the first few months…

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            How many baby boomers can still get in and out of a Miata? I suspect they’d already be buying them if they could. Putting bogus fifty year old styling cues on one and fitting an inferior engine isn’t going to shrink waistlines or improve ranges of leg motion.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “How many baby boomers can still get in and out of a Miata? ”

            LOL! My best friend told me his son bought a BMW 528iX and my best friend struggled to get in and out of it, all the while grunting and groaning and making funny old-man noises.

            Hell, I make those same noises getting into and out of my 1989 Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      I agree the Spider is so much better looking than the new Miata but it unfortunately has a Fiat engine, which C&D finds to be inferior.

      That said, they also find the Spider to be quieter and better handling than the Miata.

  • avatar
    LIKE TTAC.COM ON FACEBOOK

    Fiat needs to have more storefronts in order to sell more cars. Nothing will sell in a town with no Fiat dealer.
    The problem is that there aren’t enough sales to support more dealerships. Sigh…

    Fiat needs an ad campaign a la Toyota’s “Quality!” in the late 70’s or so. That one is still echoing today. Fiat is present in American minds only as “Fix It Again, Tony”, and therefore a brand to avoid, not to consider.

    Their marketers need to push some characteristic unique to Fiat – Italian style, European sophistication, economy, fun, youth, Serbian build quality, a 100,000 mile warranty, Marchionne’s wisdom, something, anything at all.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Check out a 500x and then compare it back to back with a CR-V and you’ll find out immediately why the Fiat isn’t selling. It feels very cheap compared to anything else in its’ class.

    Maybe Toyota could have gotten away with making a cheap feeling car (I’m looking at you, Corolla) because it has a stellar rep, but Fiat doesn’t. Younger buyers have no experience whatsoever with Fiat, and pretty much everyone over 45 has a “fix it again Tony” story.

    Once again, like they did with the Dart and 200, FCA blew it by trying to pass off C+ students in a class full of valedictorians.

    Good news, tho…it’ll make the new 124 a massive bargain by the time I’m in the market to buy a sports car. Italian name + cool styling + Japanese mechanicals + epic depreciation= used car win.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Well, the HR-V is more comparable to the 500X, and it has been criticized for feeling cheap. Its also not like the segment-leading Renegade is any less cheap-feeling than the 500X.

      Also, you do know the 124’s engine is a Fiat one, dont you? The rest, I believe, is Mazda.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Good point on the HR-V, but I didn’t think it felt nearly as cheap as the Fiat.

        Plus, there’s this: Honda can get away with a touch of cheapness. Fiat can’t.

        And didn’t know the 124 had a Fiat engine. Not sure how much that concerns me, because a) it’s already in other FCA applications and b) back in the bad old days, the engine was never the real problem with most Fiats – the car fell apart around it most of the time.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          That 2.4 Fiat engine they use in things like the PROMaster City is -not- a good engine. It runs like it’s got a check engine light for a P0442 at all times.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I think the ‘tigershark’ 2.4 is actually an evolution of the Chrysler-Mitsubish-Hyundai “global alliance” “World” “Theta” “WTF?” engine. No, it is not a “good” engine.

    • 0 avatar
      davefonz164

      500X actually has a nice interior for it’s category. Quite the contrary.

  • avatar
    truecarhipsterdouche

    Alfa Romeos….yes. Fiats….no. To not bring the 124 as an Alfa Romeo will doom that little convertible as well. That’s a shame. How could they have gotten it so wrong here in America? Did they think we’d buy cars the size of an XL coffin after the failure of SMART?

    In the land of the SUV, if you drive or try selling a car smaller than the size of your typical upper-middle class walk-in master bedroom closet…you are just doing it wrong, Sergio.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      The subcompact CUV segment is doing very well right now, but if you’re arguing that Fiat needs a larger model in addition, I agree.

      I honestly think they should try a midsize pseudo-sporty sedan with a Fiat badge. Not a Giulia clone, something FWD and not as compromised as the 200.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    1. There’s not enough Fiat dealers, so the numbers are constrained by that. For the people who DO know that it’s a Renegade-relative, some of them may be buying Renegades instead because the Jeep dealer is closer.
    2. The 500L may be cannibalizing some sales, and that face might be scaring people away. Kill the 500L, period, and sell them a 500x instead.
    3. They need to make an Abarth version to attract attention, and emphasize that Fiat is the enthusiast/handling/sporty brand as opposed to the Renegade being the tough off-road sibling. Making a Renegade Trackhawk will, on the other hand, hurt this effort.
    4. Alfa needs more product. Fiat studios just don’t have enough stuff to make people walk in. They need the Giulia and Stelvio in showrooms. CDJR dealers are that way so people coming in for one thing can cross-shop another without leaving, and potentially going to another manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I would think that the Renegade has better resale value here and is available on the lot with more options and in more configurations.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I agree on cutting the 500L. The X should fully replace it, it probably carries a slightly higher profit margin anyway.

      This isn’t like the Journey or Compass/Patriot situation where the only reason its sticking around is because it’s sales justify it, the L is holding on for no reason and should be cut.

    • 0 avatar

      The FIAT dealer in our town is a low-key affair in low-rent area. It’s a former small warehouse and garage and its parking lot. I don’t know what FCA were thinking when they awarded the franchise. Our two Jeep dealers are not necessarily better, although one is somewhat shady, and another is one of those “old-time” and “upstanding” dealers. But at least both of them are in auto malls.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The main problem with the 500X, at least in Canada, is that when you option it the way people want it (automatic, nice interior), it’s as expensive as a base Q3.
    No wonder FCA fired Fiat’s US brand manager.
    The 500L was a dud. The 500 is doing well for a specialty car that’s been out a while without updates. It is fair to say that the people who want one already have one, and there is absolutely no reason to replace it.

    Fiat really needs to get away from its 500 obsession. A small pickup would do this, or a small sedan like the one they just introduced in Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      ^^^ there you go. Mainstream, but sporty attitude products. I mean Mazda doesn’t sell that well but at least its better than these depressing numbers from an all-500 focused lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      davefonz164

      Our local rep tells me he can’t move the 500X because the pricing scheme is just absurd.

      BMW and Benz are dumping demos for less than 500$ a month, while a decent 500X will cost you over 500$ per month on a lease (Canada)

      I wonder what people will choose……

  • avatar

    Why is anyone surprised that a car manufacturer announces the return of marque with a checkered reliability-challenged past and whose debut product is a cheaply put-together six-years-stale and gangly two-door with ZERO model relevance to the American public that it tanks after all who wanted one buy one?

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    By the way, I want a Fiat 500x. Abarth if I can, but I’ll settle for a Trekking Plus. Don’t make it too popular or they’ll take all that cash off the hood. ;)

  • avatar

    “But…But….But….the 500L is the Popemobile!”

    It will be interesting when disgusted FCA dealers yell for Marchionne’s sweater on a stick…with his head in it.

  • avatar
    daver277

    The 500 was a fashion statement.
    There’s nothing fashionable about increasing it’s dimensions and adding the weight that goes with it.

  • avatar
    Lythandra

    Lack of sales probably has nothing to do with Fiat consistently being at the bottom of reliability ratings.

    I briefly considered an Abarth till I read multiple articles about reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      How DARE you. No Fiat from the X1/9 to the present 500 and 500L has ever had any reliability issue. All the surveys are lying and biased. The fact that they’re less reliable than Land Rover is an obvious conspiracy.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        It’s a monumental achievement, when put in perspective. A typical LandRover is assembled by disenfranchised gnomes managed by Indian overlords out of the lowest quality parts available worldwide to a level of complexity only rivaled by government military acquisition contracts. The Fiat 500 has about as many moving parts as the Model T did. Still, the 500 has more problems. That’s astounding.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Here in Los Angeles I see mostly younger people driving Fiats .
    .
    I also see used car lots bursting with them , does this mean they still have iffy quality ? .
    .
    Is FCA making money on the few they sell or not ? .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I live in the DC ‘burbs but still inside the Beltway. The nearest Fiat dealer is at least 45 minutes away, and I’d pass many dealerships on the way to get there. Including at least 3 or 4 FCA dealers with no Fiat stock.

    You have to really want a Fiat to go through the trouble of getting one, when you just drove past a few hundred new Renegades to reach the Fiat store.

  • avatar
    carguy

    It will be easier for FCA to sell products such as the 500 and roadster as these are fashion products for the child-less and not family haulers.

    The family hauler buying demographic has a very different set of criteria for choosing a vehicle and reliability and cost of ownership are high on that list. The 500L and X simply neither have the quality feel or reputation to go up against the competition in this segment.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    First off, Fiat is fighting a 40-year-old reputation that Americans refuse to let go of. It’s so bad most won’t even test drive a Fiat because they believe there’s no way it could be anything other than a piece of junk. I was a member of that group until my wife forced me to test drive one for her. That test drive changed my mind about its performance and it has proven to be more fun than I ever imagined.

    As for the 500L vs the 500x, honestly the 500X should have flat replaced the 500L from the outset. As for capability, it carries almost all the same capabilities of the Jeep Renegade, albeit lacking the low-range extras of the Trailhawk edition. As a direct competitor to the Mini, I’d say the two are remarkably close. But since the old Mini never sold in the US it never got the reputation that the Fiat did and so didn’t have to fight that reputation to come into this country. It’s going to take time but it’s also going to need a lot more visibility on the roads. As a $200/day rental when a Ford Fiesta is less than half that, I’m amazed the Fiats get any mileage at all through the rental agencies. Meanwhile, those who own Fiats seem to really like their cars, if not LOVE them the way my wife does.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      The problem with that reputation is that they have done nothing to change it. Fits are ranked last in every survey.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “The problem with that reputation is that they have done nothing to change it. Fits are ranked last in every survey.”

        They haven’t surveyed me. They haven’t surveyed any other Fiat owner on these boards as far as I know. So those surveys could well be biased any number of ways. Currently, I have absolutely no complaints about any Fiat product, though I have loud complaints about FCA dealerships. With only one exception, all the ones in my area are out to screw the customer and the OEM.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      They did sell the Mini in the US from 1960 to 1967.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I believe those were the Cooper Minis aka MiniCoopers. I owned one briefly while stationed in Germany. Not my cup of tea for driving on the autobahn, even back then.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I think an issue is that Fiat in the US keeps building options as if they think they are a premium brand. They aren’t.

    When the 500 first launched the dealers were loaded up with automatic-transmission Lounge models. The less expensive manual cars were flying off the lot and they had a ton of expensive ones sitting in inventory. The dealer near me STILL has 2 year old 500 automatics on their lot. As a car appealing to younger European-intenders, their actual sales skewed a lot more highly toward manual transmissions but their inventory didn’t.

    The 500L was just odd with little appeal. I owned a 500 Abarth and loved it. I was in the market for a new family car and looked at the 500L but just couldn’t bring myself to like it.

    I like the 500X. However, again, the prices rise quickly with options and the engine I prefer (the 1.4L w/ manual) is only available in stripper trim with FWD only. In the Jeep, this engine/trans is available up to mid-level trim and with the AWD option. The higher trim levels look nice but I don’t want the (reportedly) problematic 9-speed auto nor do I think it’s a “$30k car.”

    Frankly, the base model offers most of what I need, anyway, with the exception of the better audio system and screen. It’s mostly the lack of AWD since I live in Northern Michigan. I could live with FWD but then I might as well just buy a compact hatchback rather than an “SUV” in the mid $20s.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    -Too many brands in USDM.
    -Fiat name has little to no equity in USDM.
    -Stupid idea to spin up Fiat as its own distribution chain in USDM.
    -Wrong models for Fiat, Chrysler sells “crossovers”. Quest for volume rears its head.
    -Better to have sold unique Fiat models in FCA dealerships (i.e. 500, the Miata roadster copy).

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I’ve heard that Fiat has standalone dealers in the US. Every Fiat dealer I’ve seen in Canada has been part of an FCA franchise.

      Unlike most here, I think the 500 was a huge hit in the US and Canada. It didn’t sell in Peoria, but it did well in larger cities.

      The problem is that they didn’t have any other models that could build on that momentum. They still don’t.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        The 500L and 500X were attempts to build off of that. The 500L was obviously an epic fail, but that’s because they simply brought it over as it already existed. The 500X was designed at the same time as the Renegade, and I do think if they had a better dealer presence and more people knew about it, it would be more popular. It’s not going to de-throne the Renegade, of course, but it should be doing better than it is. I think making Fiat dealers standalone hurt them in the US, that’s why they’re starting to walk that back. Being attached to CJDR dealers will provide more crossover traffic, people looking at one might be willing to check out a Fiat as long as they happen to be there.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          The issue with 500L and 500X is because in USDM a separate dealer network was established, Fiat had to spin up models to sell other than 500. The 500X is the Jeep Renegade, do both really need to exist in USDM, wouldn’t it be more cost effective to just focus on selling the Jeep than the “off brand”? If there wasn’t a dealer network, there would be no need to duplicate efforts. Brand cloning can work well (GMC) or simply be costly (some Buicks), in Fiat’s case I’m guessing its not working so well. If say there were demand for a 500X, it would be much easier to spin it up and try to sell it in the existing Chrysler network, and then easy to withdraw if it flopped. Fiat won’t withdraw 500L or 500X from its US network because then it won’t have hardly any models to sell.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Every reviewer that has driven both the 500X and the Renegade say they drive completely differently, feel completely differently, etc etc. The 500X is significantly lighter than the Renegade, and handles tighter. Besides, I happen to like the 500X interior much more than the Renegade’s. They’re not even remotely clones; this isn’t a case of badge engineering, just platform sharing.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I ask myself, do both need to exist coming from the same parent company in the same market especially when one is offered by what is viewed as a fledgling off brand in the US market? My answer to myself is no.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            28,

            The corollary to your question is that the 500X cost FCA nothing to carry. It was designed for the European market, it shares parts with the Renegade.

            The short answer to your question is yes, if 500X sales are conquest sales. A few more millions every month isn’t a terrible thing.
            If it can be shown that every 500X sale would have gone to a Renegade instead, ten no, it doesn’t need to exist.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Over the years I’ve read claims that its cost hundreds of millions of dollars to introduce and certify new models in USDM because of the asshattery of the USDM. If this isn’t the case, then multiple models becomes a way to move higher volume presumably at a profit and thus makes much more sense than I argue.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Some are standalone. There are two in Denver.

        • 0 avatar
          daver277

          I hope they have short building leases.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            They should forego building their own dealership “studio” buildings, and apply FIAT styling to an old Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr., or Pizza Hut or Check Exchange.

            Think of the savings!

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Are they actually standalone dealers, or are they just in a different building?

          Are the service facilities shared with Ram/Jeep/etc?

          It seems odd to grant Fiat franchises to investors that are new to automotive retail, especially when the best-case projections only added-up to a few dozen cars/month/dealer. Who backed those loans in the middle of a financial crisis?

          It made perfect sense for existing FCA dealers; Fiats are 100% conquest sales. Setting-up a new dealership, with parts, service, real estate, staff, etc, for a new-to-the-US niche brand doesn’t make sense.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I completely agree and yes they have standalone dealers here. I think the grand scheme was to put all of the Italian brands under a Fiat distribution channel, but of course that largely has not materialized and after all it was zee dealers -not Fiat- who were out money on building empty Fiat stores.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Needs a more macho name. Associating it with the 500 series – a toy car and a next-gen Yugo – is sheer idiocy.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    There are only so many gullible people, even in the US. So much for the “passion” promised by Sergio when these things first arrived.

  • avatar

    Well, they’re terrible cars made by a terrible company being sold in a country that seethes foaming loathing for anything that isn’t a truck, SUV or full-size crossover. Not even Honda can sell us a small CUV these days. How could anyone be surprised?

    • 0 avatar
      mike9o

      The Honda CR-V is the second best selling CUV in the US after the RAV4. The Civic is up 23% over last year and outsells the best selling CUV. What do mean that Honda can’t sell a small CUV?

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    One of the biggest mistakes was trying to launch Fiat in the US. They could have simply rebranded the cars as Dodge or Chrysler and they would have done better.

    Alfa Romeo will probably do better then Fiat, but that remains to be seen.

    Dodge/Chrysler are established brands with established dealers. Fiat had to start at sale #1. Some of the Fiat 500 models could have been Chryslers (replacing the gone PT Cruiser) and the Fiat 124 Roaster would have fit the Dodge line up.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    At some point, the FCA death watch has to start. The one saving grace is barring some black swan event, there is nothing that is going to send gasoline back to $5 per gallon in the near or mid-term future. No way to know long term. The fundamentals of supply and demand are what they are, and there remains a huge over supply in shadow inventory, of over 3,000 capped off wells in the US. Every time oil goes over $50 a barrel, producers looking to turn any shred of profit put some of those wells back on line, sending the price right back below $50. The game can be played for years (again, unless there is some big surprise that happens to shock the economy or markets).

    So lets go over it:

    Chrysler:

    300 – although kept “up-to-date” like the GM Lambda triplets with new technology, even more dated than the GM Lambda triplets under the skin. No $$$ around to update and American buyers aren’t buying full size cars. It’s a shame really, the 300 in the upper trims is a nice ride.

    200 – the Pontiac G6 of FCA. Vastly better than the 200 it replaced, but still way behind the class. Terrible transmission that wasn’t ready for prime time, the wrong engine. In top trim it’s a good looking car. It’s dead dead deadski. FCA has said, we give up.

    Town & Country – going to soldier on apparently right next to…

    Pacifica – lots of promises, and a good looking vehicle – but minivans aren’t “in”

    Dodge:

    Dart – botched and totally tone deaf launch – give them manuals! Wrong transmission, quickly dated. Another “G6” example. Vastly better than the Caliber it replaced, but still woefully behind in category. They have also said, “we give up,” in this category.

    Charger – see 300 above. Hellcat isn’t enough

    Challenger – falling woefully behind the Mustang and Camaro – yes a “different” than the two, but that is the category. The age of platform also showing with it falling further behind in all the performance numbers. Hellcat isn’t enough

    Journey – thank heavens for rental agencies and 550 FICO scores. If you need 7 passenger seating and just don’t give a crap, we have the GM U-Body minivan you still think you want, that GM stopped building almost a decade ago.

    Durango – actually this is a pretty solid offering – but lags in the class because – well – Dodge – dude, I’m buying a Jeep

    Grand Caravan – it’s dead. No it isn’t, it will solider on. But the Dodge minivan is going to go away – until Sergio changes his mind

    Alfa Romeo

    Hey, here is an idea – lets put BILLIONS into this brand and sell about 50 C4s a month on a really, really good month. That’s success baby!

    Fiat

    Hey, here is an idea, lets bring back an Italian brand that most Americans think of as Fix It Again Tony, provide about the same level of quality adjusting for the decade (e.g. there really are no bad cars anymore, but Fiat is at the bottom of what is a rather good pile in general) and sell cars in a size and category buyers don’t want. Then, lets not introduce any new products beyond a sexier Mazda with the FCA engine because you know, about 1% of the American population buys convertibles.

    Jeep

    WOOHOO!!!! Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

    Hey, lets put a turbo 4-cylinder under the hood of the venerable Wrangler – what could go wrong?

    Compass and Patriot – who cares if they’re awful, we be selling them!

    RAM

    (see Jeep – but just not as good in the sales and growth department). If I was buying a brand new full sizer today, it would probably be a RAM truck

    I know I left off the Viper but that sure as Hell isn’t saving FCA.

    They have nothing — and right now Jeep might have a huge public relations fiasco if the GC just killed a famous and beloved actor.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I think we just saw the black swan even with the death of Mr. Yelchin. Bitter irony if the GC was black.

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      Can’t complain about fuel prices around here. They’ve gone up-maybe $.50 about since the biggest low of $1.89/gallon. They’ve fluctuated up and down $.10 – $.20 but nothing scary. Which is good. Even better, we’re saving $.10 on diesel right now, and we go through a lot so of that so no complaints there.

      I like your analysis of all their brands and cars. Although relative to the 200 and Dart at least around here G6’s were thiiick on the ground. It was almost surprising to 16 y.o. me when I heard they were closing Pontiac just due to how many of them there were around. Doesn’t mean that they weren’t bad cars and not good enough, but they at least seemed to sell better.

      FCA really has a lot of problems In their brands and I don’t see them turning it around anytime soon. FIAT was definitely hurt by low gas prices, but I doubt all those people buying unefficient RAM’s and Jeep’s would really be buying FIAT 500’s instead.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Fiat got screwed by cheap oil prices. Their reputation for poor quality hasn’t helped much either.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    1. Fiat needs to stop naming its US products “500”. There is almost no commonality between a 500 and a 500X.

    2. The 500L should never have been brought over – it’s homely.

    3. The 2.4/9A drivetrain is a pox on the 500X and the Renegade. The more-desirable 1.4T/6M is only available in poverty-spec trims of those models.

    4. IIRC, the standalone Fiat dealers had to spend some $1 million each to ‘win’ a dealership. Soon, I expect them to join VW dealers with torches and pitchforks at the doorsteps of their corporate headquarters.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      True, that Tigershark has a really rotten character. Euro engines are generally known for low-end torque, but that one acts more like a JDM-spec 4-cyl in that it’s peaky (probably Hyundai and Mitsu’s influence on the original WGE) You don’t get to the meat of the torque curve until about 3k RPM. I’d expect 1500-2000 RPM in a Euro-oriented engine, especially since that’s also where the 9 speed auto would try to put highway revs.

      Hopefully Hurricane improves things.

    • 0 avatar
      stevelovescars

      The 1.4/6M is available in more trim levels and in AWD in the Renegade. I drove a mid-spec Renegade with this combo and it was nice. Good torque, a nice sound, and it felt light. The 1.4/6M can NOT be had above base spec or with AWD in the Fiat version, however.

      I understand that the % of sales with manuals is fairly low overall, but I would have to assume that demand for this combo is higher for European brands like VW, Mini, and Fiat than would be for more mass-market brands.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I’d be curious to see the regional breakdowns of these sales. 500’s seem quite plentiful here in Central Florida. I would imagine they do better in certain locals. The dealership model does need help though, even here. We have 4 relatively close dealers, and only two were particularly well regarded and one of them closed within the last couple months. The other one is about an hour outside the main Orlando metro area. What I’ve also learned is that despite being a FCA product, you can’t take it to just any FCA dealer. Only Fiat dealers are authorized to perform warranty work. Even at a dealer that sells Fiats as well as the other FCA brands, it can be challenging. I was just there today and they only had one Fiat tech available and he left at 4:30. The other CJDR techs couldn’t work on the car. Luckily the problem was simple and the fix was quick. They need to improve this if Alfa is to stand a chance, especially as a premium brand. People who are used to buying BMWs Benzes Caddilacs and Audis are used to a certain level of service. Luckily, both my 500 Abarth and my parent’s 500C have been quite reliable so it’s not been an issue so far. We’ll see how things go as the cars age (my parents have 125k miles and I have 55k miles).

    That being said, an extended warranty would’ve been good. Hyundai/Kia did a lot to overcome their poor reliability history by offering “Amerca’s best warranty”.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    While I find the Fiats a nice change from the Oriental school of auto design, there were a huge number of mistakes made in the re-launch of Fiat in the USA.

    I’ve often lambasted Subaru’s ad campaigns as ineffective, the commercial with Jennifer Lopez was equally as ineffective as anything Subaru ad people do. But that’s just one part of the story.

    First, Fiat wanted to emulate BMW’s MINI division, while doing it on the cheap. I think the Abarth should have been part of the original launch. I know they had to produce X-amount of 40 MPG cars to get control of Chrysler, but their marketing wasn’t effectively communicating for them. Is it a chick car? Is it a 40 MPG car? Is it a clown car? Who knows?

    The 500L is too small. In the ROW they market a 500L “Living” which has a fair amount of space behind the rear seats. The 500L is actually pretty huge inside, but this appears to be huger. I think it would have made a better fit for US consumers. Calling it the 500L means little to Americans. They could have called it the Multipla, the Brava or the Strada. I think it would have helped to expand the line up in people’s minds. Also, the DDCT, while unique, had it’s issues and did nothing to help the 500L or Fiat sell them.

    The 500X is a neat little car, but about two years too late. It’s a shame, because I think it could have been a beast in 2013. 2015? Too many others have come along since then.

    I see where they’re trying to rationalize their options on the new cars. Oddly, this is what they’ve needed to do since the beginning. It’s very Euro to order your car or get it in Chameleon Green, but here in the States, we like our cars on the lot and in silver, black, red or white. Maybe blue. It depends. 40 years of Japanese automakers telling us to take it in whatever color it shows up in or leave it has made it’s impression upon us. I highly doubt we will see teal or purple cars of any manufacture. (Except Mitsubishi).

    I actually agree with narrowing down the options lists, they get very extensive and rather expensive. In the regular 500 series you have six option packages, some of which can add 50% to the base model purchase price. Yankees aren’t going to go for this; any car with more than three options packages blows our little minds. You’d think someone who was a part-time Canuck would know this.

    The Studio concept was a nice idea, but when it met reality, it meant that there were far fewer outlets for their products. While I like the consolidation that Chrysler did in the bailout days, there’s nothing that special about the Fiat line up that it couldn’t be sold along Dodges and Jeeps. (I really wish GM had done the same thing; maybe I could still get a Pontiac of some stripe…)

    All that said, I sure hope that something from Fiat sticks on the wall here. I’m hoping to get an Abarth someday and track it. I don’t want to have to buy all of my parts on the internet…

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      You think the Subaru ads were ineffective? I thought they were highly effective, I thought they really touched on something. Simple, and not flashy, but effective.

      The J. Lo ads did absolutely nothing for me. Seemed like they were trying way too hard.

      That being said, I actually think FCA’s pretty effectively used product placement in music video’s. Putting the FIAT 500 in ‘Good Time’ by Owl City, and the Renegade and 500x in ‘Bright’ by Echosmith were great choices. Made me look up both the 500x and Renegade to find out more after watching them if nothing else. They actually caught the attention of a 21 y.o.,isn’t that what marketers dream of?

  • avatar
    Chan

    In addition to all of its management troubles, Fiat is a lineup of urban-chic cars trying to sell in the world’s most suburban country.

    Once your early-adopter customers all have a car, you’re going to have to keep your product line up-to-date. Fiat’s US cars have been released and allowed to grow stale.

    Refresh the 500 as was done in Europe (why wasn’t this done 2 years ago??).
    Do something about the 500L. Update it, kill it, anything.
    Don’t forget to keep the 500X relevant.
    Market your cars on practical merits, not silly celebrity tie-ins.
    Introduce more mainstream models that fit the US market and are actually class-leading in some way (good luck with that…Italian cars have never sold on anything but quirks).

  • avatar
    jerseydevil200

    In Philadelphia, the nearest dealerships are way out in the suburbs. City people, like me, who could really use very small cars, we cant see them here. I am convinced that if there were more presence of these cars in the areas that could really use them, they would sell better. A boutique storefront in the city so u could see them in their best habitat, so to speak. In the suburbs, they compete with monster SUV’s, which are totally impossible in the city. I see them here, among residents. They are really nice cars. But nobody knows that.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @jerseydevil200 – the problem car dealers run into is the amount of land they require and the massive costs involved in finding that much property in a city. The Fiat dealer that closed here in Orlando recently was actually right smack in the middle of downtown. The vibe of the place was fantastic. Little Italian Car dealer and garage right in the heart of a city. They had free espresso and gelatos for anyone that bought a car from them. There was only a handful a techs and salespeople so a lot of them new their regular customers by name.

      However, they had to close because they could no longer afford to stay on their land. Downtown real estate prices are skyrocketing and it’s hard to make enough $ selling a lineup of cars that is largely under $25k to pay for that sort of prime property. Some boutique pizza parlor has already announced plans to open on their lot. Plus, it was a logistical challenge. The dealer itself didn’t have space for that many cars, so they had a separate lot in they had to lease just to store cars at and then they would have to shuttle customers and cars back and forth between the two. It also limited their service department because there was no room to grow. I think they were the largest Fiat dealer in the Southeast and they only had 3 or 4 service bays with no way to add any more. They didn’t have enough parking at the dealership for customers, employees, and cars being serviced. The salesman used to have to go and feed the parking meter so he wouldn’t get a ticket while at work. Unfortunately, the car dealership model here in the US doesn’t do well with little boutique shops, as cool of a place as it was.

  • avatar
    davefonz164

    Stupid stupid article with little research and facts.

    1- Renegade and 500X share platform, engine, transmission and both built in Italy by the same people.

    2- 500X sold 1,250 units in May through approx 200 dealers. This comes to 6.25 units per dealer.
    Renegade sold 10,868 units in May through approx 2,000 dealers. This comes to 5.4 units per dealer.Do you actually think the sales rep will try to convince Billy Bob to buy a 500x that needs to be discounted when he can sell that same client a fully loaded Renegade trailhawk?

    3- Mini sales are down 20% with a vastly better dealer network and more established tie-up to BMW. All small cars and niche brands are presently down 15-20% in sales.

    4- Brand perception and availability, coupled with so-so pricing is what hurts.

    Truth be told, FCA doesnt give a rats a.. about moving Fiat’s when clients cant get enough of their Jeeps and Rams.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      Actually, based on that math, it’s arguable that the 500X is a complete success. Each dealership is selling 5 per month, versus 4 of the Renegade per month.

      • 0 avatar
        davefonz164

        I’d say so but generally speaking, the brand is concentrated in South Florida, Cali and NYC where mostly immigrants or urban people buy Fiats.

        Why would you push that product through the mid-west or bible belt?

        Again, the facts and truth are not presented properly in this article.

        Fiat does need to work on their pricing structure and visibility but then again, the 500X is on fire in Europe and the Renegade is doing extremely well in most other markets. It’s a win-win situation for FCA and they are concentrating their efforts where it makes most sense.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Between the stupid Fiat store strategy they are now trying to undo and the costs to develop and build a separate Fiat 500X model, nine Renegades per dealer/month would have been more profitable and made more sense than five Renegades and four Fiat 500Xs. The Fiat/Alfa/Italian misc brand strategy could have still worked if it grew out of Chrysler dealers organically and not the reverse. But since the Italians won, they wanted to flaunt their parent brand in USDM. This is kinda like the pour all FCA into profits into one Alfa model strategy on which we have yet to see any results. I’m guessing it ends up the same way, another boondoggle.

        “The strategy — revealed to dealers this afternoon at a suburban Detroit hotel — could save a retailer selling 15 new Fiats a month an average of $180,000 per year in duplicate third-party vendor expenses, FCA estimates.

        Dealers who decide to stick with the existing stand-alone Fiat showroom — who essentially stand pat — will receive about two-thirds of the savings as well as other benefits to their monthly operations.

        In addition, FCA will simplify its underperforming Fiat product lineup — cutting the number of trim levels to limit price overlap among nameplates. Pricing will be affected, but details of those changes aren’t yet available.

        The measures are aimed at halting Fiat’s sales decline and restoring dealers’ faith in the beleaguered brand, said Tim Kuniskis, head of FCA’s passenger car brands.

        Two-thirds of Fiat’s 206 dealerships average less than 10 new sales a month, and less than half are profitable, an FCA source said.

        But the vast majority are located near a sister Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram dealership, often on the same site. All but 42 Fiat dealerships are owned by Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram dealers.”

        ““We’ve added a ton of product, and we’ve seen no increase in sales — none,” Kuniskis said. “Every single car has been substitutional to the other ones.””

        http://www.autonews.com/article/20160309/RETAIL/160309854/fca-lays-out-latest-plan-to-save-struggling-fiat-dealers

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          The 500X should, in theory, compete against import CUVs, not against the Renegade. Not sure if that’s actually happening, but I’m pretty sure that’s what FCA wanted.

          They should appeal to a different type of customer. The 500X should have a nicer interior (not the case with base models), and an on-road bias. Presumably that’s why you can’t get manual with AWD, or a trailer hitch, on the 500X.

          • 0 avatar
            davefonz164

            It does compete against import CUVS but the price gap doesn’t make sense in America or Canada.

            That’s not the case in Europe where most people buy small CUV with FWD and manual. The 500X is one of the best selling in it’s segment.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Mr. Kuniskis explains in the link the 500L and 500X were/are cannibalizing each other in terms of sales. If either model were a “conquest” at one point, the growth of conquest sales has not continued and now the brand is eating its own between the two models. Since the 500L production was recently halted in Serbia, eventually the cannibalization will end but this doesn’t mean sales will increase.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            And good riddance too. Maybe they can convert that factory to 500x/Renegade production.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Mine ain’t failing, the Abarth is a great car. My daughter’s 2015 Corolla is another story.

    The only complaint I have is about the weekly “Fiat’s failing” circle jerk that I encounter here. Get a life.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I drove a 500X for a week recently and was shocked that I liked pretty much everything about the 500L better, save for the looks. Like all CUVs, the 500X has an excessively stiff suspension to avoid feeling tippy, and all that stylish ground clearance is wasted space that would be better given to passengers. It is good looking, truly beautiful in pearl white, but the seats are narrow, the lower-level interiors aren’t that great, and the transmission destroys all the fun that the big-displacement engine promises (sport mode is no help, it just holds the gears too long under light throttle). And except in base-base trim, it’s a bit pricey. But all compact and subcompact CUVs suck to one degree or another, and that doesn’t stop them from selling, and this one is better looking than most. I think the issue is more that most people don’t know it exists.


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