By on July 19, 2017

Fiat 500L assembly plant Serbia - Image: FCAThe strike is over.

Inventory can once again ramp up.

After 21 days of concern over the future of Fiat 500L, FCA’s Serbian employees are back at work.

And, uh, it doesn’t appear as though dealer stock of 500Ls grew dangerously low in the meantime.

Facilitated by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, the end of a worker walkout at the Fiat 500L assembly plant in Kragujevac, Serbia, was the result of PM Brnabic’s willingness to organize and attend negotiations between Fiat and its Serbian workforce.

FCA had made it clear the company would not negotiate with workers during the strike. Brnabic, meanwhile, attempted to lay the weight of the nation’s small economy on the plant workers: “It will be very difficult for us in the future to bring new investors when there is no certainty that workers will honour contracts between unions and employers.” The 500L is the driver of 3 percent of Serbia’s economy and accounts for 8 percent of Serbian exports.

FCA’s Serbian workforce wants to see the company hire more workers so the workload can be more easily distributed. They were also demanding a pay raise to 416 euros per month from 316 euros, the equivalent of USD $365/month.

“The government cannot guarantee what we can get,” Brnabic said after meeting with workers for two hours, “but I will insist on fulfilling as many of the strikers’ demands as possible.”2017 Fiat 500L Lounge - Image: FCATortured by worker unrest at suppliers, its own HR difficulties, and poor global demand for a model Fiat had originally hoped would attract 160,000 customers annually, FCA’s Serbian plant is reportedly built on a foundation of huge government subsidies. Mario Reljanovic, a professor of labor law at Belgrade’s Union University, says, “The subsidies alone are enough to bring them a profit.” But there are rumors that an FCA plant expansion in Poland could allow FCA to shutter the Serbian facility, which has never come remotely close to capitalizing on its capacity.

Stateside, Fiat is barely selling more than 100 500Ls per month, down from an already low high of more than 1,000 per month in 2014. Automotive News says Fiat entered July with a 188-day supply of 1,300 500Ls. During the first-half of 2017, the average U.S. Fiat dealer sold one 500L every three months.

As of Wednesday, July 19, 2017, workers are once again assembling 500Ls in Kragujevac, Serbia.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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15 Comments on “Our Long Global Nightmare Is Over – The Fiat 500L Is Back, Baby...”

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    Kind of unfair to criticize the productivity of a plant forced to build these wildly unpopular lumps. Does the Serbian government at least buy them? With the right color paint you could find all kinds of missions: police cars, fire trucks, garbage collection..

  • avatar

    @jpolicke… Wildly unpopular car? For sure in the US but fortunately for FCA not in EU27 where last year has been sold 83k units of this model. To give you an idea about numbers the Jeep Renegade has sold in the same period 76k. So as you can see a model is it not a flop just because doesn’t sell well in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      You are right they have sold 82k units in Europe last year but sales have dropped from 94k in 2014 and sales have steadily been dropping this year as well.

      • 0 avatar

        You might be aware that a restyling has been just released in early June so I am sure the drop in H1 was due to this coming MY2018. I am sure the full year 2017 will see an increase in the sales.

    • 0 avatar

      Is 83k a respectable number? Europe is a fairly large market; I would have thought this level of sales would hardly qualify as a success story.

      • 0 avatar

        You are right. The EU27 is a fairly large market but the small MPVs are not doing so well anymore since the introduction and the great success the small SUVs are encountering. So back to your question yes 83K it’s definitely a good result. In addition consider that the Fiat 500L is still the best selling vehicle in the small MPV segment with a 25.4% share in EU27. That’s also the reason why FCA didn’t kill this model yet and actually they have just released the MY2018.

      • 0 avatar

        To put it in USA centric perspective, Nissan sold around 82k Pathfinders here in 2016. So the 500L is roughly as popular in Europe as the Pathfinder is in the USA, at least last year.

        Kia moved 81k Sportages in the U.S., as an additional comparison.

  • avatar

    I saw one last month at the Cdn F1 race that had been converted to wheelchair accessible. No back seats, just a wheelchair lift through the back hatch. Owner said it cost him about $20k to convert. Very cool and much more “city friendly” than the usual Chrysler minivan.

  • avatar

    Ah yes, the only car ever sold in the US to muster an INFINITY-day supply on dealer lots…and it’s not even an Infiniti!

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