By on August 6, 2018

Image: FCA

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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40 Comments on “Fiat’s U.S. Decline Continues Apace, but Somebody Please Put the Brand on Canadian Milk Cartons...”


  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I like the 124 Spider, and the plucky little 500 is cool.

    I’d consider a 500L for ride share duties. The 500X just doesn’t have the good looks of its Jeep counterpart.

    • 0 avatar
      MoDo

      Knew someone that ordered and waited months for a 500L. Drove it, the 1.4L had to be floored in order to move the thing. She got rid of it in less than a year of ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      robc123

      So did I until went to the FIAT booth at the local car show. The 124 was on a pedestal, with a fence around it. You could not sit in it. The FIAT salespeople were dicks and told me it was $50k- for a FIAT? Told them to go f- themselves and went over to Porsche for $63k. Every single car less the KIA stinger you could sit in at that show. No wonder they are not selling cars. Still like the 500c though- rented one once, liked it a lot. Great to park and a fun convertible.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    500 is effectively unchanged for 8 years.

    500L is butt ugly – even the “new” one.

    500X – might as well buy a Renegade, same car, and the dealer will be there in 5 years.

    124 – Miata with a FIAT engine? I’m sure FIAT dealer techs know exactly what to do with that.

    Oh, and Canadians buy milk in bags, not cartons.

    • 0 avatar
      I_like_stuff

      “Oh, and Canadians buy milk in bags, not cartons.”

      Only in Ontario I believe.

      • 0 avatar
        TDIandThen....

        Bags in Quebec, and I’m pretty sure everywhere in the country. Though cartons are also available if you’re a wasteful philistine apparently. I was raised in the US so I usually go carton.

        I agree and like the 124 so much I intend to buy one in October. I notice that the manufacturer cash incentive on 2017 124s ends on August 31st. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s offered in Sept / Oct.

        Unless someone offers me a Saab Aero convertible that’s more attractive and a better value before I buy the Fiat. I have a feeling the Saab will be better supported in two years.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The 124 is a Miata with a good looking front clip.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      People across Canada and the US can buy milk in cartons, up to about 2 quarts/litres. The gallon/4 litre package is generally bags in at least some parts of Canada, and plastic jugs elsewhere.

      So, the reference to milk cartons in the article is appropriate.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I’ve lived in Western Canada my entire life and never seen milk in a bag. The cartons are 250ml, 500ml, 1L, and 2L. The plastic jugs are 1L, 2L, and 4L.

      Vico, FTW.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Time for the Ole Yeller treatment.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Without Big Serge, I think the Fiat Future in N. America is bleak.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I’d hate the see the Abarth go, if nothing else than for that stupid-silly exhaust note that has me rolling down the window every time one passes by me.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    And De Soto has been waiting a looooong time.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    That Abarth 124 is a sexy little beast, but the drive doesn’t match up to the looks. Weird throttle and clutch response, so-so shifter, and atrocious steering unless in “sport” mode. I was also expecting an exhaust note like the Abarth 500, but that wasn’t happening. The Miata drove better in every aspect, for anyone who thinks they’re the exact same except the engine (I drove them back to back).

    The interior, at least, was equal to the top trim Miata. And Abarths can be had at thousands under sticker, close to the lowest Miata Sport trim. I haven’t crossed it off my list yet, but really wish they’d do something about the steering, instead of having to put it into sport mode every time I get into the car. Apparently “Sport” is the standard drive mode in Europe, and what’s standard for us is “comfort” for them.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “The Miata drove better in every aspect…”

      +1

      Drove a 124 Abarth and compared it to both a RF club and a soft top club. The Miata is a better, more responsive, and more engaging car.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Yeah, I was really hoping for a different result. I prefer the looks of the Abarth, I found the seats to be more comfortable, it has more color options than the Mazda’s “greyscale + red” with an interior that’s much less bleak/black. And it’s quite a bit cheaper.

        • 0 avatar
          Drew8MR

          There’s probably a software hack that lets you just leave it in Sport or at least have it default to Sport. Have you checked the forums?

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            I did look through the forums, and saw similar complaints. There was at least one guy who was able to change it. A bit risky for me, messing with a brand new car like that.

            The weird thing is, the sport button is actually the one found in many Mazdas, but not in the Miata. And it can’t be had in lesser Spiders, so they’re stuck with the lousy steering.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    At the risk of sounding like one of the crazy people–

    Is there any surprise the Fiat and Chrysler brands aren’t doing so well after they were used to take a public company private by means of government largess?

    Fiat and Chrysler are about to collapse/give birth to the young parasite that’s finished them off.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    In view of Fiat’s catastrophic return to the North American market French carmakers would be wise to rethink their reentry plans.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      So long as they don’t limit themselves to a very small niche car, sell it pretty much unchanged for 8 years, with other models looking like bloated versions of the niche car (124 excluded) haphazardly added later when the initial interest in their products has all but faded.

  • avatar
    Igloo

    Wonder why Fiat never tried to sell the Tipo or the Fullback in the states.

    • 0 avatar

      Because they are not that stupid.

      • 0 avatar
        Igloo

        Explain.

        • 0 avatar
          WallMeerkat

          Even in Europe, the home of the compact hatchback, the Tipo doesn’t sell. It is a Turkish built car designed for emerging markets.

          The Mexican market Neon is a Tipo sedan – https://www.dodge.com.mx/modelos/neon-2018/colores – there were rumours it could enter the US market, but with the failure of the Dart, 200 and sedans in general, the chances are slim to none.

          As for the Fullback, this is a bit of a shambles now as it is Mitsubishi L200 based, that company is now effectively under Renault-Nissan control. Seems to be a slow seller in Europe, wouldn’t be surprised if it was quietly axed soon. I don’t know why they didn’t rebadge a RAM pickup. (Fiat commercial vehicles are badged as RAMs for the US market though)

  • avatar

    FCA have a leverage – as all you know dollar is a Fiat currency since 1971.

    Would it help if they renamed FIAT to Rambler?

  • avatar
    vehic1

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      silkworm

      The reputation for lack of reliability must be at least as big of an issue as the company’s decisions. I have a 2011 Lexus ES 350 with over 100,000 miles and not a single issue, and it’s comfortable and painless, though not remotely fun. I’ve thought about trading it for a two year 500 Abarth a good dozen times, but I’ve become so used to never having any headaches from my car that I always end up talking myself out of it. The heart wants what the heart wants, though.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Excellent analysis. 100% concur.

    • 0 avatar
      stuckonthetrain

      It’s just too hard to even break even with small cars in the US. That, and whatever is left of Fiat dealers just don’t care. Like, they literally don’t return calls or know what to do when a current or potential Fiat owner calls in or stops by. It’s a shame too. I just bought a used ’14 500 Abarth cabrio as a weekend/project car and was pleasantly surprised by its build quality, ride, driveability, and general fun.

      I was very close to getting a FiST, but was willing to trade its higher performance for something a bit more playful and motorcycle-like. We also have a ’13 T&C, so I figured let’s just go all-in and make our garage a halfway house for orphaned FCA brands…

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

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

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