Rare Rides: All New Fiat Models, Apparently

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
rare rides all new fiat models apparently

The Downward Spiral wasn’t just a groundbreaking Nine Inch Nails album — it also aptly describes Fiat’s current sales trajectory in North America. (Sorry for the headline, Corey.)

With January 2018 figures out of the bag, the state of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Fiat brand becomes ever clearer, though we’ve known it was in trouble for some time. Reintroduced in this market in early 2011, the four-model brand continued its downhill sales slide last month, with corporate cousin Alfa Romeo outselling it for the second consecutive month.

How bad is it?

It’s bad.

Year over year, the quintessentially Italian small car brand saw its sales fall 43 percent to 1,229 units. Each model — the 500 city car, 500L tall wagon, 500X small crossover, and 124 Spider roadster — saw a year-over-year drop, though the 500L’s decline amounted to a gap of just two vehicles.

The brand has come a long way since its best U.S. sales year of 2014. In that long-ago year, some 46,121 Americans took home a Fiat. North of the border, 2012 was the brand’s year, with 2014 a close second. In the U.S., each year since that peak has brought a decline. Last year saw 26,492 Fiats sold, despite the mid-2016 introduction of the Spider.

To look at it another way, U.S. Fiat sales have fallen, year over year, for 25 consecutive months.

For the 500, January’s 63 percent sales drop bears some explaining. Both American and Canadian Fiat websites still list the 2017 model, sparking rumors of its demise, though worldwide production of the 2018 model is shifting to a single production facility in Poland. North American models have vacated FCA’s Toluca, Mexico assembly plant in order to free up capacity for more important models. The new model is supposed to appear by the middle of this year.

The Serbian-built 500L sold 104 units in the U.S. last month and exactly zero in Canada. (Making it all the more odd that I saw two of them last weekend.) 2017’s U.S. tally of 1,664 500Ls is 86.6 percent lower than 2012’s 12,413 units. Canadians bought 42 500Ls last year, down more than a little from 2014’s 2,461 units.

The attractive little 500X, which shares its underpinnings with the Jeep Renegade, also can’t find any love. Its U.S. sales sunk 19 percent, year over year, in January. It was the model’s 19th consecutive sales drop. Sales in the Great White North fell 90.2 percent, year over year, to 11 units.

January is never a great month for convertibles in North America, but the newest addition to Fiat’s lineup, the 124 Spider, posted declines on both sides of the border — 23.8 percent in the U.S. and 69 percent in Canada, where last month’s tally stood at 13 vehicles.

There’s no new product in sight for the disappearing brand, just a trio of minor refreshes. After the 500 this year, 2019 brings a 500X refresh with a facelifted Spider arriving the year after. Will it have a brand to arrive to? That’s for buyers to decide.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Vulpine Vulpine on Feb 05, 2018

    I've said it all along, that the brand is fighting a 50-year-old reputation that won't disappear until more of them are seen. These are already among the least-expensive cars to buy on the American and Canadian markets, so it's going to take people like myself, who are willing to ignore old arguments, buying them to expand that market. Remember, the Renegade is doing quite well for itself. The new Compass is doing quite well for itself. These are on the SAME platform as the 500x and very similar to the 500L's platform. Fiat's sole problem is popular perception, which can't divest itself of antique hearsay.

    • See 4 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Feb 06, 2018

      @ernest Sorry to sound sexist, but it seems the women tend to just love cute little cars... if their husbands will let them. My wife still wishes we hadn't traded off her Fiat 500 to get her Renegade and sometimes wishes she'd let me take her to the nearest Fiat dealership to try out the 500X. Since the X and the Renegade are on the same platform, their characteristics will be quite similar and Fiat's videos have demonstrated that. Maybe you don't like a cute car, but some people do. Again, it's the reputation that's hurting Fiat, NOT their capabilities.

  • Kendahl Kendahl on Feb 05, 2018

    Hyundai used to be in the same position as Fiat and Alfa Romeo are now. It took a serious effort to improve quality and a ten year warranty to turn it around.

  • SCE to AUX I like the concept, but $6k just gets you started. I'd have to outsource the bodywork, which is a real problem on a project like this.Still, the result would be a fun vehicle that reflects what many people want today - a small unbloated utility truck.
  • TheDoctorIsOut Try and keep it as light and focused as it always has been and as analog as possible. For those who can appreciate it (and fit into it) there’s still something special about a car that can be driven at 90% of its potential for most of the daily drive.
  • SCE to AUX Let it die with dignity - no electrification. That would kill the spirit of the original.Mazda needs to think about survival and market share, not tinker with a niche car with waning sales, or dying on Wankel Hill.Maybe their body and paint engineers could help Tesla once Mazda folds.
  • Lou_BC H-E-L-L-C-A-T
  • EBFlex "EBFlex speaks more truth."It's sometimes a burden being right all the time.