QOTD: What's to Be Done With Fiat?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd whats to be done with fiat

As we told you yesterday, Fiat’s sales are best imagined as a heavy stone — one that drops heavily into a pond after a brief, victorious flight. Two years of consecutive month-over-month sales declines in the United States is a grim situation for any brand, let alone one reintroduced just seven years ago. Blame America’s growing allergy to small cars, or a neglectful corporate parent — whatever the reason, something has to be done.

The purpose of this article isn’t to, um, throw stones at Fiat’s four-model lineup; it’s to give you an opportunity to save the brand. Or kill it off for a second time.

Like you’ve done in the past, you’re now reclining ever so slightly in the CEO’s chair down in Auburn Hills. You have two options at your disposal — one easy, the other complex.

Option One: Deep-six the brand in North America because it’s not worth the trouble and get on building a new two-door Ramcharger for Steph Willems. The Bronco needs a challenger.

Option Two: Take stock of the situation and, with the aim of resurrection, plot a new product course for the beleaguered brand.

While you might have very good reasons for killing off the brand north of the Rio Grande (and we hope you share them), the second option is where things get interesting. What, if anything, remains in the brand’s lineup after you’re through with it? Keep in mind that FCA’s wallet isn’t overflowing for this project, meaning your suggestions need to be in the realm of doability.

Could the segment space inhabited by the Fiat 500L — a car seen as often as Jimmy Hoffa and the Lindbergh baby — be better served by offering its platform mate, the attractive and contemporary Fiat Tipo sedan and five-door? Or are you of the same mind as Sergio Marchionne, with small cars not being worth the hassle?

Maybe Fiat, seeing as how the Italian twin to the Jeep Renegade fell on its face, deserves a larger crossover than the 500X? Why not a Fiat based on the Cherokee’s CUSW platform?

There’s also the question of whether the diminutive 500 city car, Fiat’s instantly recognizable model, is worth saving. Has its time in the sun been forever darkened?

One wildly obvious suggestion I’d have, if Fiat wants to slowly recapture lost market share (which, is this case, is the whole pie), is that it needs to do more in the segments it’s in, and add new product in the segments it isn’t. Under your watch, Fiat could bring production of the unibody Toro pickup from Brazil to Mexico, thus avoiding the chicken tax and giving Americans the small pickup they hopefully want. That’s assuming it can be built to U.S. safety standards. Maybe, if priced right, enough buyers might take to it, just like they’re taking to the Honda Ridge- er, nevermind.

Or maybe it’s best to start with a clean slate. There’s a number of shared platforms to build on. Hell, let’s throw in a little more cash and allow you to develop some of your own. A rear-drive 124 sedan, perhaps, and a pile of variants? Wouldn’t the Russians drool.

So tell us — what stable of Fiat vehicles would you like to see rise from the drawing board? And do you think someone other than yourself might buy one?

Sound off in the comments.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Kushman1 Kushman1 on Feb 09, 2018

    I think Fiat should remain with the 500 /abarth as the sole models to fill the city car niche and focus on that. The 500x, should've been sold as a luxury Chrysler version and sporty dodge version. The 124 spider should've been an Alfa Romeo. FCA in this suv boom could get away with rebadging all jeep suvs for both chyrsler and Dodge. There's a huge demand for suvs right now and it would work. There wasn't really a reason to kill the dart and 200, and in hindsight those should've been upmarket alfa versions to flush out the range for volume with guilia being the flagship. FCA's problem isn't a lack of product it's a lack of common sense as to what brand should sell what models. Dodge is cool again with the charger styling. Chrysler was doing well with imported from detriot and the TC, sebring but they drowned the brand out for pacifica (and waymo etc). FCA has all the reasources to be successful, but Sergio doesn't have the common sense to want to do so.

  • Good ole dayz Good ole dayz on Feb 10, 2018

    First a mea culpa -- having driven / owned several FIATs back in the day, I'm a fanboy. Yes, quality then was deficient, and rust protection (lack of) in particular was their downfall -- but let's keep things in context: everybody's products sucked throughout the 1970's. As for today to revive the brand in the U.S.: 1) Something like the old 131 sedan and wagon -- with Italian styling and handling. While such wouldn't sell in the numbers of Camry / Accord, especially at first, it would provide a compelling alternative to the ANGRY ARTHROPOD look that is currently de rigueur with the Japanese (and increasingly American) brands. Slotting in price as a "European sport sedan" below Volvo / Audi could be attractive for enough buyers to make it worthwhile for FCA -- and build a foundation for future growth in market share. 2) As "halo" entries, a real 124 Spider and Sport Coupe like the classics of the 1960's / 1970's -- not a badge-engineered Mazda. It's surprising how many still have fond memories of those cars, even if they had mechanical / electrical challenges and died of tinwormitis. With contemporary quality, these could be winners -- especially if priced to be (relatively) affordable (and insurable) by millennials (i.e., below Camaro / Mustang on a net basis of cost + insurance). This could be done inexpensively off of the new 131 platform -- recall that the original Spider / Coupe were "124's" built off of the 124 sedan chassis, while the X1/9 was derivative of the 128 sedan.

    • See 1 previous
    • GeneralMalaise GeneralMalaise on Mar 18, 2018

      This comment I can really relate to. My first new car purchase was a '74 X1/9. I owned it for 6 years and - except for the substandard vinyl used on the seats and 2 window regulators I had to replace - I had no trouble because I adhered to the maintenance schedule. I put 99k miles on it and only sold it because we needed another large car for our young family. It still holds a place in my heart. Fiats aren't for everyone, but they do fill a niche. I'm a big fan, as well.

  • Bobbysirhan I'm surprised by the particular Porsches to make the list, and also by the Cadillac. Most of all, I'm shocked that the 2-door Mini Cooper is on here. I didn't even know they still made them, let alone that anyone was still buying them.
  • Ajla I assume the CT5 is on the list due to the Blackwing variant.It would be interesting to take the incentives that existed in October 2019 and include that in an analysis like this as well. The thing about the used market is that while you'll pay less in total dollars, in some cases the percentage increase from 2019 is even worse than with new cars. Buying a Saturn Relay for $6k isn't exactly a winning move.
  • VoGhost Reminder: dealers exist to line the pockets of millionaires who contribute to local politicians.
  • Cprescott The pandemic changed the sales game. No longer do dealerships need inventory. After two years people are accustomed to having to order what they want and then extorted on the price by the dealer for that privilege. Now used cars with 75k are selling for $5k more than I paid for my 21k, 2016 model back in January 2019. I pray my car won't get totaled and I have but 13 payments left to make on it. I may never buy another car again.
  • Grein002 I hope you meant "take the Ranger out behind the *barn*" rather than "bar". I think something completely different happens "behind the bar".
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