Fiat's U.S. Decline Continues Apace, but Somebody Please Put the Brand on Canadian Milk Cartons

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
fiats u s decline continues apace but somebody please put the brand on canadian

If the Fiat brand was a human being, it was last spotted in the parking lot of a local bank. Police are now scouring the woods.

Launched with adequate, if not great, fanfare as a newly Italianized Chrysler powered out of the recession, the Fiat brand failed to put down roots in the American marketplace, with the automaker’s next five-year plan showing it as an afterthought with an uncertain future. Sure, Italy gets a wagon version of the little 500 and greener power options, but in North America, the brand went over with buyers like Catwoman or Heaven’s Gate did with movie audiences. Dealers aren’t exactly thrilled with having the Fiat name anywhere their Jeep or Ram banner.

As bad as the brand’s continued non-performance in America is, buyers north of the border have already moved on.

There’s been worse months for the Fiat brand in Canada. Two of them, in fact, and all in the last year. But July’s tally of 49 vehicles sold is just another reminder that the brand’s days are numbered, even if FCA won’t say so.

Stateside, Fiat posted a 45 percent year-over-year decline last month, with its year-to-date volume down 44 percent. It’s like the brand gets halved each year. In Canada, the road to invisibility apparently has a higher speed limit. Despite high gas prices and taxes, buyers clearly had more appetizing choices at the small car buffet — sales sank 53 percent in July and a whopping 79 percent over the first seven months of 2018.

In the Great White North, sales of the 500 city car fell 22 percent, year over year, in July (from 27 to 21 vehicles), while the 500X declined 14 percent (from seven to six vehicles), and the 124 Spider dropped 71 percent (69 vehicles to 20). Only the odd-looking 500L posted a monthly sales gain (100 percent!), as July’s two vehicles sold doubled last July’s single sale.

More people bought an Alfa Romeo Stelvio in Canada last month that took home a Fiat-badged car. The same can almost be said of U.S. buyers, too — the entire Fiat brand’s July sales tally, 1,240 vehicles, was just 100 units more than the Stelvio’s volume.

We’d show you a pie chart of how the Fiat brand fits into FCA’s volume, but there’s no nano-knife sharp enough to carve off a slice that thin. A little more than seven-tenths of one percent of FCA’s July volume (0.725 percent) was Fiat’s doing, which is pretty much the same share as its YTD volume (0.74 percent). In Canada, Fiat made up 0.28 percent of all FCA vehicles sold in 2018.

Excuse me, sir. Have you seen this brand?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Aug 06, 2018

    FCA have a leverage - as all you know dollar is a Fiat currency since 1971. Would it help if they renamed FIAT to Rambler?

  • Vehic1 Vehic1 on Aug 06, 2018

    FCA never did much with the Fiat brand here - just the 500 + its variants, plus one sports car. Too married to the 500, zero modern-styled sedans/SUVs - and, fairly or not, the stigma of its '70s reliability issues. Mini is struggling too (not quite so much, since it has a more-positive BMW connection); I don't know if BMW wants it to ever become a more full-line brand, or remain a retro niche one.

    • See 3 previous
    • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on Aug 08, 2018

      I can see MINI being an evolutionary styled brand, already the cars are becoming unrecognisable when parked against an original Austin/Rover Mini.

  • Conundrum "the plastic reinforced with cotton waste used on select garbage vehicles assembled by the Soviet Union." Nah, wrong. But it's Posky, so should I be surprised? That body material, Duroplast, was invented by Germans, used on the East German Trabant car and dulled many a saw blade when trying to cut it. Soviets made regular sheet tin cars. Nothing fancy, they just worked, like Soviet farm tractors you could repair with a pipe wrench and a 14 lb maul. They exported quite a few to Canada in the '60s and '70s and people used to swear by them.I suppose this new Citroen Ollie has LED lights. If they fail, does one go to the Dollarama for a $1 flashlight, then rip out and use those LED "bulbs" for a repair?I think this Ollie thing is off the rails. The Citroen 2CV was ingenious, both in chassis and especially suspension design and execution, but where's the innovation in this thing? Processed cardboard panels, when corrugated tin, a Citroen and Junkers favorite fascination would be just fine. Updated with zinc coating from circa 1912 and as used in garbage cans and outdoor wash tubs ever since, the material lasts for decades. Citroen chose not to zinc plate their 2CVs, just as the car industry only discovered the process in the mid 1980s, lagging garbage can manufacturers by three-quarters of acentury, with Japan holding out until the mid '90s. Not many 1995 Accords still around.This Ollie thing is a swing and a complete miss, IMO. Silly for silly's sake, but that's the modern day automotive designer for you. Obsessed with their own brilliance, like BMW and Toyota's crews creating mugs/maws only a catfish could love, then claiming it's for "brand identity" when people take offense at ugly and say so. They right, you wrong. And another thing -- hell, Ford in the 1950s, if not well before, and innumberable Australians found that a visor stuck out from the roof over the windshield keeps the sun out when necessary, but Citroen delivers first class BS that an upright windshield is the solution. And as GM found out in their newly-introduced late 1930s transit buses, flat windshields are bad for reflections, so they actually changed to a rearward slanting windshield.This design reeks of not applying already learned lessons, instead coming up with useless new "ideas" of almost zero merit. But I'm sure they're proud of themselves, and who gives a damn about history, anyway? "We new young whiz kids know better".
  • Conundrum Can't see that the Espada chassis had much to do with the Miura. The Miura had a rear-mounted transverse V12 with the transmission and final drive all part of the engine block. So it's a bit of a stretch saying the north-south V12 and regular transmission Espada chassis was related to the Miura. It looks to be no more than an update of the 400 GT. And short and long-arm independendent suspension was hardly unique -- a '53 Chev had that in front, it was standard for years on most cars that didn't have Mac struts. The Brits call SLA suspension double wishbone, so Honda thought that sounded more mysterious than SLA and used that terminology in ads, but it's the same thing. Only a few mid '30s cars had same length upper and lower A-arms like a '36 Chev, before the obvious advantage of a short upper arm for camber control was introduced. Of course Ford used a dead beam front axle until 1949, so it was last to climb out of the stone age.Do you have a link to a reference that says the Miura and Espada chassis were related?
  • FreedMike One of the things that we here in North America often forget about Europe is that it's a COMPLETELY different world to drive in. Imagine driving in the downtown area of the city you live in 24/7, and never leaving it, and you have a decent simulation of what it's like to drive in a place like Paris, or London, or Rome - or Manhattan, for that matter. As far as the "dystopia" is concerned, I don't really see it that way. This isn't made for people living in the 'burbs - it's for urban dwellers. And for that application, this car would be about perfect. The big question is how successful the effort to provide large-scale EV charging in urban areas will be.
  • Matzel I am hoping that Vee-Dub will improve the UX and offer additional color options for the 2024 Mk8.5 refresh for Canada. Until then, I'll be quite happy with my '21 GTI performance pack. It still puts a smile on my face going through the twisty bits.
  • Stanley Steamer There have been other concepts with BYOT, that I have always thought was a great idea. Replacing bespoke parts is expensive. If I can plug in a standard 17" monitor to serve as my instrument panel, as well as speakers, radio, generic motors, batteries, I'm for it. Cheaper repair, replacement, or upgrade costs. Heck I'd even like to put in my own comfy seats. My house didn't come with a built in LaZboy. The irony is that omitting these bespoke items at the point of sale allows me to create a more bespoke car as a whole. It's hard to imagine what an empty rolling monocoque chassis would look like capable of having powertrains and accessories easily bolted on in my garage, but something like the Bollinger suv comes to mind.