QOTD: Ciao, Arrivederci - Can You Muster a Tear If Fiat Gets the Axe?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd ciao arrivederci can you muster a tear if fiat gets the axe

Pity the poor Fiat brand. The Italian marque’s return to the North American market was like a musket left out in the rain: The priming pan went up in a flash but the main powder charge failed to ignite.

Once the recession-battered public got its fill of the tiny, retro Cinquecento in 2011 and 2012, it was nowhere but down for the brand, despite Fiat Chrysler’s attempt to scratch buyers’ growing crossover itch with the admittedly attractive Jeep Renegade-based 500X. It doesn’t look like the 124 Spider’s gonna do the trick, either. A niche model from a niche brand with cratering sales and a massive backlog of unsold vehicles? That’s no Roman holiday.

So it came as no surprise when rumors cropped up of the brand’s looming North American demise at the hands of outgoing CEO Sergio Marchionne. Will you miss it?

In its present form, perhaps not. Not for this writer, anyway, though I’ll admit to only running in terror when a 500L drives by (a rare circumstance, for reasons stated above). The 500 was impossible to drive without cocking my head to the right at an unpleasant angle, and I’ve never been behind the wheel of the Spider (which at least boasts unlimited headroom for its occupants some of the time). We’ve had a few good things to say about the stillborn 500X.

Still, you don’t hear teenage boys lusting over an Abarth anything.

If the rumor becomes official on Friday, it spells the end of a longstanding headache for FCA dealers. In 2013, Fiat franchisees were crying out for new product. By 2016, they were begging for salvation. FCA responded by allowing standalone stores to shack up with neighboring Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealers, then poured on the cash for those left unwed. Trims got the axe, then prices. Standard turbocharged power in the 500 was the last gambit for the struggling brand.

There seems to be no way of getting buyers interested in Fiat, making its demise an inevitability. And it’s hard to miss what’s barely there. What does spark regret, however, is promise left unfulfilled — the departure of a quirky foreign brand that could have been so much more, had its parents’ interests not lay elsewhere.

In a past post, I laid out a couple of possible product solutions, though my dream of a low-cost purveyor of funky rear-drive sedans and coupes was a pipe dream in today’s market.

So, will there be a single tear shed if Marchionne chops the brand tomorrow?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Join the conversation
2 of 72 comments
  • Hawox Hawox on Jun 01, 2018

    i live in italy and here fiat sells thanks to aggressive pricing on some cars (like punto wich is outperformed by competition). i can't understand how they manage to sell cars like the fiat 500L, also the overpriced fiat 500. they aren't fun to drive, nor spacious nor cheaper to maintain than competition. for sure i wouldn't buy one if i lived in the us

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jun 04, 2018

    Yes, I'll miss them if they go. My 500e was the most enjoyable car I've owned, and I've owned a lot of fun cars. The 500X with the base powertrain (1.4T and stick) is a fun, cheap, useful car that cheerfully takes bumpy or windy roads in stride. The Abarths are a bratty, blatty blast. If it's hard to sell small cars, but you have to sell at least a few for CAFE reasons, then to me it makes sense to have a brand that attracts the specific people who like small cars, and that's FIAT. The brand has always stood for cheap to buy, fun to drive, cheekily stylish, and easy on gas. Send all the little cars to the FIAT store--just make sure they're fun to drive and stylish. Turbo all the things, install proper seats, and make every available trim package as snazzy as can be: lush chocolate brown pleather and fake chrome accents FTW. God help you trying to sell the Dart as a Dodge. But keep more of its Italian DNA intact, and you'd have a nice step-up model for the FIAT buyer with a baby on the way.

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.