By on April 21, 2017

Fiat Tipo, Image: FCA

Say you’re a dealer with a backlog of slow-selling models. What’s the last thing you would want?

The correct answer would be a springtime deluge of more of the same, whether you asked for it or not. That’s what some angry retailers across the Atlantic are facing after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dumped 6,000 anemic sellers into Italian dealer management systems at the end of February.

According to Automotive News Europe, the dealers claim the automaker invoiced them for vehicles they didn’t order — to the tune of roughly 6,000 units total. In this case, unpopular units. The compact Fiat Tipa hatch and Ducato van made up the bulk of the unwanted invoices.

Fearing a backlash from the automaker, the dealers haven’t revealed their identities.

“We were invoiced for a considerable number of Tipos that we did not order,” explained one dealer. “They also had the wrong specifications, making them harder to sell. We already had a surplus of Tipos.”

Another anonymous dealer explained it was invoiced for more than 5,000 Tipos at the end of February, despite having only sold 4,000 units in February. The approximately 90,000 euros’ worth of odd allocations came as FCA struggled to prevent a weak first quarter. Because each delivery counts as a sale, the automaker’s Q1 health would see a corresponding boost — on paper, at least.

Carlo Alberto Jura, chairman of the company’s Italian dealer body, has protested the move, explaining that some dealers were already trying to drain an eight- to nine-month supply of Tipo models. That’s well above the “healthy” two-month benchmark. To move the unwanted models, Jura wants manufacturer incentives from FCA. He also complained, in writing, that the invoicing violates the dealers’ franchise contracts.

Automotive News Europe has learned Fiat’s Italian sales director, Pietro Nardi, copped to the invoicing in a dealer letter, admitting that “in some cases the practice had occurred.”

News of the invoicing comes after FCA landed in boiling hot water in the U.S. last year. The automaker faced federal investigations over its practice of moving vehicles from a dealer’s inventory to its demo fleet, and reporting that transaction as a sale. The sales were then rolled back at the beginning of the next month.

As a result, the automaker was forced to alter years of U.S. sales figures.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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57 Comments on “It’s Raining Fiats … on Dealers That Already Can’t Move Them: Report...”

  • avatar

    TIL: Fiat makes cars named “Tipo” and “Ducato”.

    I literally had no idea until just now.

    They aren’t exactly good lookers, are they?

  • avatar

    I disagree… The Tipo hatch and station wagon looks pretty good….certainly better than the 500 series junk they sent us

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, but the biggest engine available is the 110 HP 1.6L. The downside of importing from Europe isn’t just the different specs, it’s the tiny engines that don’t compare to the competition. 110 HP would have been fine in 1987 though.

      • 0 avatar

        Depending on the weight of the car, you’d be surprised how lively the 101 hp 1.4 can be. The Tipo is a relatively lightweight car so that 110 (sure it’s not a 101?) could be as lively as the Fiat 500 itself, and I refuse to believe they’re as sluggish as some here want us to believe; I drove a 101hp Fiat 500 for two years and people around me were shocked at how quick that little thing was. A lot of them thought I was driving an Abarth. It was a basic Pop.

  • avatar

    I think a 500 would be the perfect run-around-town car for someone like me, but it’s still a Fiat.

    I don’t want one, and neither do almost everyone else.

    The Tipo is a new one on me, as I have never heard of them. Are they any good? I hear good and bad about the 500, but what about this?

    • 0 avatar

      My wife actually liked the 500L when we saw it at the auto show. Our new Sienna SE is what we needed, but she liked that car, ugliness and all. That would have changed if we’d driven one I’m sure, but she liked the packaging of the car.

      • 0 avatar

        “That would have changed if we’d driven one I’m sure, but she liked the packaging of the car.”

        @gearhead: I’d almost be willing to bet against you on that one but I also think she’d be quite surprised with the 500x, which uses the same platform and drivetrain but is the AWD version. People are panning them but they’re really not giving them a chance, either. The new transmission has to learn the driver’s habits. Give it three months and the car is sensitized to your style and much more responsive to your throttle input.

        Ask yourself this: Why is the Renegade so popular and the 500x not? The answer is simple: the Renegade doesn’t have the Fiat name on it.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re introduced in Europe, they’re quite similar to a Peugeot 308, a modern compact (mid size by Europe standards)

      They’re one of the first of the “buy with your head” traditionally cheap and functional branch of Fiat cars, vs the 500/124 “buy with your heart”.

    • 0 avatar

      @Zackman: Have you ever driven a modern Fiat 500? I really think you would be surprised at both its performance and its reliability. The model and the brand are fighting an undeserved reputation.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d be damn surprised if a modern Fiat 500 showed reliability, considering that the current Consumer Reports owner survey rates every year of the modern 500 that had a sufficient sample size with the overall reliability score Much Worse Than Average.

    • 0 avatar

      No. No. No. No. Step away from your computer. Now run away.

      I leased a 500 Abarth, and I paid a metric crap-ton to get out of it a year early. Most people would say I wasted that money. Getting out of that car was the best investment I’ve made in years.

      Worst. Car. Ever. And I owned a Ford Pinto station wagon with wood patterned vinyl sides in the 80s. I would have traded straight up for the Pinto with the turning signals duct taped into the rusted out front end if someone had offered. The only thing Fiats have done is rehabilitate the reputation of the Yugo as the worst car ever made.

      Did I mention no no no no no?

      • 0 avatar

        Caruso, what issues did your 500 have? Was it an early build car? A lemon? Or just a car you were lukewarm to begin with and ended up really hating it? That’s where I am with my ’16 Cruze, it’s fulfilled the reason I leased it as an inexpensive third car, but now I want something more interesting. This noise that they can’t diagnose has me hoping to get rid of it, though I know the process is long. My lease is up in December.

        • 0 avatar

          I had an early ’14 Fiat 500, basic model (Pop) and even without turbo it was a lot of fun to drive as well as economical. I do agree the trade-in value sucks but the value as a fun to drive economy car makes up for a lot of that. Really didn’t want to sell that off when I bought my Renegade, but had no use for three vehicles and the Renegade replaced a Wrangler and the Fiat so I could keep my more compact Ranger instead of going for a bigger truck which I refuse to purchase.

  • avatar

    If 5,000 tipos only cost €90,000 I don’t understand why they aren’t selling. Hell, I’ll take a few dozen!

    • 0 avatar

      If you add three more zeros, it would make more sense as a total cost for 5,000 tipos, but who knows what up-front costs Italian Fiat dealers have to pay?.

  • avatar
    Michael Haz

    Hey, it’s not much better here in the States for Fiat dealers. My local dealer (a pretty good multi-location, multi-franchise operation) couldn’t sell the things, and suddenly closed the dealership and dumped his inventory heaven-knows-where. Now there’s only one Fiat dealer in a state that has some 6 million residents.

    The Fiat franchise experience was so bad that the dealer apparently views his new Maserati and Alfa Romeo franchises as an upgrade because that’s what’s now in his former Fiat dealership building.

  • avatar

    I doubt I would buy one, but would consider leasing a 500 Abarth. Looks like a fun runabout, bet you could get excellent terms as well.

    The stories of incentives, accounting trickery, etc seem to be hitting the auto news outlets pretty rapidly lately. Unfortunately, I think we are in for another round auto depression/carpocolypse in the next few years. Seems that most automakers are better positioned to weather the storm than last time, FCA being the likely exception. Chrysler and Fiat I feel have been on life support for too long. Chrysler arguably being kept alive artificially for the last 30-40 years.

    Ultimately, I think Sergio’s plan where he spun off Ram as a separate brand will be fruitful when it comes time for the asset sale. Jeep, Ram go to highest foreign bidders. Dodge, Chrysler get the dirt nap. Fiat goes home to Italy to trudge for another decade or two.

    Its a shame, but I think its inevitable. Sergio had been seeking strategic alliance from day one, think he knew it all along as well. Who knows, but seems that a large prolonged spike in gas prices or recession is all it would take.

    • 0 avatar

      “Unfortunately, I think we are in for another round auto depression/carpocolypse in the next few years. Seems that most automakers are better positioned to weather the storm than last time, FCA being the likely exception.”

      If there’s a recession, we’ll all know why. However, there is a slightly more important factor coming into play before that which could disrupt the storm as far as automakers are concerned. If, as another TTAC article has already suggested, we’re heading into a price hike on gasoline, the value of the big gas-hog pickup truck is going to fall while economy cars will see a resurgence as they did during the last such hike. EVs and high-economy cars like the Fiats will see increased demand, especially when those Fiats can demonstrate 37-45 highway mpg. My ’14 model consistently gave me mileage over 38 in hilly country on the highway and between 27-29 in stop-and-go commuter traffic.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Because each delivery counts as a sale, the automaker’s Q1 health would see a corresponding boost — on paper, at least.”

    Mfrs of all stripes pull these stunts regularly, but I’ll never understand why. Eventually, some day, by-and-by, at the end of the rainbow, you have to move actual metal. Artificially boosting Q1 only makes Q2 that much more difficult.

    As my friend used to say, “in the end, everything is average”.

    • 0 avatar

      I just received an email invite from GM to terminate my ’16 Chevy Cruze
      lease early(they’ll make 4 lease payments worth up to $2500) and get into a new Chevrolet with up to $2000 cash depending on what it is. $2000 on the expensive stuff ( Tahoe, SS,etc.) $1000 on most cars.

      This would be on the ’16 Cruze that has now been at the selling dealer for a week for a noise in the rear end they can’t figure out. They’ve put two new shocks, a new axle and it still clunks and pops over sharp impacts. I have a ’17 hatch as a loaner and I’m not impressed. Better in some ways ( better interior space,handling, steering feel, drivetrain NVH) worse in others (cheaper interior, way more wind and road noise).

      Sorry GM, no thanks.

      • 0 avatar

        “This would be on the ’16 Cruze that has now been at the selling dealer for a week for a noise in the rear end they can’t figure out. They’ve put two new shocks, a new axle and it still clunks and pops over sharp impacts.”

        Sounds like a broken weld or loose/lost fastener to me. I’m surprised they haven’t considered that.

        • 0 avatar

          Apparently it has the GM technician support team baffled too. They’ve had it before Easter and discounting the holiday, it’ll be a week Monday( dealers are not open in PA on Sunday). I had to get something from the car while it was down on the lift and inside the car was some machine called a Chassis Ear. They’ve driven it with techs in the trunk, have put all these parts into it and to no avail.

        • 0 avatar

          Update if anyone cares: It’s the usual “They all do that” as the dealer has two more used Cruze’s that do the same thing. “We’ll let you know more if we find out”. Well, it’s July and nothing. That that I expected anything really. But I won’t be buying anything from the General any time soon either.

  • avatar

    Took an estate for a test drive. Could only find one with a diesel which I wouldn’t buy. The ones here are made in Turkey where they follow a long line of fiats used in the taxi trade over there. It was cheap with a cheap interior and straightforward and so completely nondescript with a tiny radio/satnav screen. It should be a reliable taxi but its not big enough to compete with the UK favourite Passat or Skoda Octavia. It’s not an SUV and specced up it’s more expensive than a Dacia Duster which is bargain basement but fun in a cheap and cheerful sort of way. There are few Fiat dealers and their reputation is terrible. America? Normally I would say You Must Be Kidding but this is FCA. If Ford can’t sell Fiestas…

  • avatar

    I’m considering a 500 Abarth Cabrio. I’ve driven two now, a new leftover ’14 GQ (that I should have bought) and a used regular 500 Turbo that someone slathered Abarth stickers all over (should have seen the salespersons face when I pointed out it wasn’t an Abarth).

    It’s a quirky car to be sure. The GQ series (which was an Abarth with more “gentlemanly” looks per “GQ” the magazine, instead of boy racer) was a hoot to drive though and the giant fabric sunroof is an interesting anomaly.

    Downsides are the obvious FCA reliability dice roll and the fact that it’s fairly cheap inside. Also, they have no resale value. I’ve found well-equipped two year old cars with less than 5k miles for 15k. And those are Abarths, the lesser trims are even cheaper. This makes buying new a hard sell and is part of FIAT’s problem.

    I like the little car, but three letters that would better suit me are probably GTI. But a new FIAT would be much cheaper than a new GTI, but close to a gently used one. Used with low miles, the FIAT wins the price, but certainly not refinement or usability.

    It’s only me in the car 95% of the time and my kids are still young enough to fit in the back (can’t say that about the Toyota 86 I visited while buying our new Sienna). But I have recurring thoughts about a friend of ours who was in a terrible accident in her first gen Honda Fit. If her daughter was in the back, she would have been killed. People suck so much at driving now, it’s hard not to think about that.

  • avatar

    Seriously, when was the last time it was a good time to be a Chrysler dealer? Mid 90s maybe, early 2000s at best? That’s a long time to put up with crap products and manufacturer shenanigans.

  • avatar
    Marcin Laszuk

    I’m really surprised that noone seems to want those Tipos and Ducatos in Italy. In Poland, these are pretty much the only products of theirs that sell at all (which in itself is ironic given that as recently as 15 years ago Fiat alone was responsible for approx. 30% of the entire Polish market; now it’s barely alive, languishing around the 15th place, with the whole Polish subsidiary depending on the Ducato’s position as the least costly of the fullsize vans on the market). Before I read the article I was certain that it will be another installment in the “Fiat 500 is premium!” debacle that noone seems to be falling for any more.
    In Europe, Fiat has been barely getting by for the the last decade anyway. When you look at the national sales charts in Europe, it becomes evident that it’s strong in just one significant market: Italy, and some smaller ones, such as – if I remember correctly – Serbia. Noone else is buying Fiats anymore.
    In the past, Fiat was one of the go-to makes for people looking for a cheap new car. Later on, the Koreans stepped up their game, the French beat Fiat at its own game as well; recently Dacia took over pretty much the entire ultra-low-cost segment for itself. Fiat basically lost its only market, and given that it’s offering a 12-year product (Punto) in the segment in which it has historically been the strongest, it looks as if they’re not even trying anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      Because now they have so much choice at good prices. I agree, the koreans have now come in with better quality but the prices aren’t so low now because Euro versions come with mos of the options as standard. I think this is where they were hoping to compete with the new Tipo. In Turkey, it does well and that is a good market to be in. India and Iran may also pan out for them.

  • avatar

    Stick a Jeep badge on them and they’ll sell fine. :)

  • avatar


    • 0 avatar

      Fiat Dealer on the line with FCA Corporate.

      Dealer: “Hello. I’m staring at a transporter full of cars I didn’t order.”

      FCA: “I’m sorry Sir, your account clearly says you have an auto-ship recurring order for 500s in all sizes and trim packages.”

  • avatar

    ChryCo’s shoved product down dealers’ throats off-and-on for the better part of 60 years.

    Again, Jeep will survive whatever happens to the rest of FCA, but FCA’s in trouble. Don’t expect a 2027 Fiat – OR Dodge/Chrysler product – in any form.

  • avatar

    If they actually sold the Tipo wagon or hatch over here, maybe I’d have a reason to think about a Fiat. But they don’t so I don’t.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    As luck would have it, the local Fiat/Alfa Romeo store is holding an “inviation-only” Giulia drive event tomorrow. I signed up, mostly to a) see if the fit & finish is bad as I’ve read, and b) out of morbid curiosity that the damn thing won’t experience a debilitating mechanical failure on the test drive.

    I feel like I must gird for battle, though… like I’m deliberately swimming into a school of piranhas desperate for a meal/sale.

  • avatar

    aside from the specialty-market Nissan Leaf, I don’t believe there is any car with worse depreciation than any of the FIAT 500 models. Especially the 500E – without dickering, Towbin Fiat has a 2013 on their lot for under $6000.

  • avatar

    I don’t think the 500’s are that bad, like it better than the focus.

    Buy new and make use of the warranty or buy a year or two older and save some money up front.

    Couple years ago I rented one, a cabrio automatic (no stick) and took it out of town for a business trip. Overnight bag fit well, it was the easiest car to park ever. Convertible was great and gave a good sense of openness. Older infotainment system was ok and paired well. seats were good for a tall muscle guy. Unlike the mx-5, you can drive it in winter and not feel bad.

    On the highway got a speeding ticket doing 145. No buffering if semi’s pass.

    For around town, and its got some fun colors- I would get one if my damn car broke down for good and my yearly mileage went way up.

  • avatar

    Luca Ciferri of Automotive News seems to me to had “inspiration” for his article from another article published on italian finacial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore on 15 march 2017 (more than a month ago).

    Link to original article (in italian)

    We are in april, so why mr. Ciferri doesn’t gave us the total number of Fiat Tipo registrations in Italy for march? Maybe because the jump to 8,344 units was not in line with his article?

    The original article doesn’t tell, as Ciferri does, that most vehicles were Fiat Tipo, but that the vehicles were LCV and cars, of this last most were Fiat Tipo (we don’t know how many were the LCV and the cars).

    The total anount of additional vehicles for all italian dealerships were 6,000. So the the supposed additional 5,000 of this TTAC article is an error. Do You really think that one single dealership will receive an invoice of around USD 70 million for one month?

    Addendum: in Italy, as in the other European Union countries, the published new cars data are registrations, not sales, and data are collected by public authorities, not by automakers.
    Once registered a vehicle cannot be “deregistered”.

  • avatar

    If you wanted to know what its like, then here you are. Translation and cultural reference guide for a reasonable fee. DAB is a terrible digital radio system wished on us by the BBC. Like Xirius except it NEVER works. The garish red and blue label is a referent to UK biggest supermarket chain, Tesco who do a “value” range if you eat to live. The diswasher powder is quite good and makes low cost tasty snack.

  • avatar

    Update, since maybe someone could be interested to know what happened with this “rain” of Tipo that none wanted, well at least based on what the writer of the article wrote.

    Italy, first semester 2017 car sales.
    Fiat Tipo june sales 7,084, january-june 36,597, that is the third best selling vehicle in Italy for the period.

    European Union + EFTA countries.
    1st quarter 34,271, 8th in its segment.

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