Sorry, America, This Potentially Popular Fiat Pickup Isn't for You: Fiat Chrysler Design Head

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Ralph Gilles, global design head for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, just loves the little Fiat Toro pickup. He can’t get enough of it.

Unfortunately for FCA, and especially the Fiat brand, Americans certainly can say “no” to FCA models adorned with a classic Italian badge. Fiat, which returned to these shores just six short years ago, is floundering in North America, so ears perked up in Chicago yesterday when Gilles seemed to imply the brand might introduce a life-saving model into the U.S. market.

Alas, the company appears to have no intention of trying something desperate to stop the sales bleeding.

The Fiat Toro, a cute little four-door unibody pickup with an odd face, rides atop the same platform as the Jeep Renegade and next-generation Compass. In Latin America, it’s the pickup people want (and can afford).

While speaking at the Chicago Auto Show, Gilles stated, “You’re going to be seeing more from Fiat on the truck side, especially.”

Say what? The brand most famous for the Fiat 500 — a car you could hide by standing in front of it and unbuttoning your coat — will start flinging trucks everywhere? Maybe in America’s direction? Could the unibody Honda Ridgeline gain a midsize competitor?

Hold your horses, said Gilles, after the speculation machine began venting steam.

“I must clear something up from this morning “I meant I Love the new 2017 Toro sold in Latin America, no plans to sell in the U.S,” Gilles tweeted shortly after making the statement.

I must clear something up from this morning "I meant I Love the new 2017 Toro sold in Latin America, no plans to sell in the U.S pic.twitter.com/aeChtwTTeD

— Ralph Gilles (@RalphGilles) February 9, 2017

Now, many will point out Gilles only said Fiat won’t bring Toro to the U.S., thus leaving the door open for the possibility that other Fiat trucks might. Of course, to pull it off, FCA would somehow need to sidestep the much-loathed chicken tax if any pickup were built outside of the current NAFTA nations.

Midsize trucks are a growing segment in the American automotive landscape, ruled by the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado/ GMC Canyon twins, but eyed greedily by others. The Ford Ranger will return for 2019. Fiat, as it turns out, sells the midsize, body-on-frame Fullback pickup (essentially, a rebadged Mitsubishi Triton/L200) in Europe and a slew of overseas countries, but FCA has never breathed a word about that model making it to North America.

Basically, we’re left hanging here. The adorable little Toro and its two-piece tailgate will not spur a unibody pickup sales war with Honda, and Fiat, by all available evidence, will continue to struggle and slip on the sales charts.

According to trade publication Automotive News‘ product chart, the only new offering we can expect from Fiat in the foreseeable future is a refreshed 500X in 2019. Besides that, tumbleweeds. Meanwhile, Fiat started off the new year in poor form, logging only 2,164 sales in the U.S. in January. Compare that to the 2,594 sales in January 2016, and 3,255 sales in January 2015.

The brand’s sales plateaued almost immediately after its U.S. rebirth, reaching a “high” point of 46,121 units in 2014. Last year’s tally was 32,742. If the Toro isn’t coming, what will Fiat offer consumers to reverse its death plunge?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Comments
Join the conversation
9 of 89 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 11, 2017

    An extended cab with a little longer bed would be better. I agree with one of the comments above that if this were marketed as a Fiat in the US it would be better not to call it a Toro because it might be identified with a lawn mower even though Toro is meant to be bull. I doubt we will ever see this in the US.

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Feb 11, 2017

      Maybe they should just put out a two door regular cab with a full box off the Renegade. All the landscapers' Rangers aren't going to last forever.

  • DenverMike DenverMike on Feb 11, 2017

    Bottom line, it has to sell well, chicken tax or no. It's possible in theory, especially listening to the Vulpii demographic, but highly unlikely. The Subaru Baja was a slow selling disaster, but there's another huge expense. The Baja likely divided up buyers that would've bought a new (highly profitable) Forester or other Subaru anyway. Meaning there's a point of diminishing returns. Despite outcry, VW has 5 or 6 cars it flat-out refuses to sell in America. Why? Why offer VW buyers 18 completely different car choices on VW showrooms, when they can offer 12 (of the most profitable) and sell almost as many cars? Small pickups had their day in America. We moved on. We demand 4 doors/4 seaters, with a bed that's not a complete joke. If there's just room for luggage or groceries or dogs (remember when people could ride in pickup beds?), why have them exposed?

    • See 5 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Feb 12, 2017

      @Vulpine "...it would pull a decent chunk out of the compact to mid-sized CUV/SUV market and maybe eat away at some of the mid-sized truck market." That's a big part of the problem. OK, maybe FCA has nothing to lose, but normal OEMs don't want a low-volume compact trucklette, perhaps trendy and interesting when 1st introduced (as was the BRAT, VW wabbitruck, Baja, Rampage, etc) on the same showroom and competing against their proven bread & butter cars, and or midsize pickup. I said I was surprised by the midsize truck "upsurge". But you can't exactly say you "called it" either. Except I can dig up a video interview of a Ford marketing exec saying (I'm paraphrasing here), the Ranger was only for the world/global market, and the F-150 for America *only*. He was questioned if the F-150 would ever be sold in Australia (despite strong Oz demand), and responded by saying the Ranger and F-150 were specifically designed for the markets currently in.

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.
Next