By on May 24, 2019

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is going all-in in Brazil, where the struggling Fiat brand was once the country’s top choice for new vehicles. The automaker has announced a $4 billion plan to boost market share in the only non-U.S. region that made the company any money last quarter.

Leading the way are two new Fiat SUVs, joined by a host of Jeep and Ram offerings.

FCA CEO Mike Manley didn’t have much to say about those future models during a Brazil plant tour Wednesday, though he did talk up the size of the product surge, Bloomberg reports.

By the time the cash dump dries up in 2024, Brazilian buyers can expect 15 new, refreshed, or “special series” models, while the new Ram and Jeep offerings will number 10.

“We want to make sure the Fiat brand remains very strong in Brazil’s marketplace,” Manley said. “The Fiat brand is a vital part of our business.”

Last quarter, FCA’s Latin America region turned in $117 million before interest and taxes, with a profit margin of 5.4 percent. Manley hopes to take that figure into the double-digits by 2022. Fiat came to Brazil in 1976 and remained a top seller until 2015, after which Volkswagen and General Motors took the lead. Jeep volume has grown rapidly, hitting 4.8 percent of the country’s market share last year, and Manley wants to see that continue.

Image: FCA

Part of the $4 billion will go towards boosting production at the company’s Pernambuco plant, which opened in 2015, from 250,000 vehicles per year to 350,00. That plant builds the Jeep Renegade and Compass.

A new plant will also begin construction to supply the market with small, turbocharged engines, Manley added. For 2019, the company introduced a new 1.3-liter turbo four to serve as the top powerplant in the global Renegade line. It makes 177 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a 1.0-liter three-cylinder that makes 120 hp and 140 lb-ft.

There’s no word on whether the two new Fiat SUVs bound for Brazil have any chance of appearing on American shores. The company barely mentioned the brand’s U.S. presence during last year’s five-year plan unveiling, and sales of the Renegade-derived 500X crossover have not met anyone’s expectations. Last year, Fiat’s market share in the U.S. fell to 0.09 percent, with sales over the first four months of 2019 falling 42 percent.

[Image: Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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22 Comments on “Nearly Dead in the U.S., Fiat Turns to Brazil for Rekindled Love...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’m guessing that $1799 is negotiable now?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      FIATs were so bad that they went right from dealers lots to the junkyard. Which means the day before they shipped this off they were still looking for $1799.00

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    Yellow caution tape?

  • avatar
    TimK

    My mental image of Fiat stems from memory of a long-ago coworker who bought a brand new Spider convertible. It was a beautiful car with luxurious off white leather upholstery. But from day one it gave him nothing but trouble with constant mechanical and electrical failures. One day a group of us were headed out to lunch and somebody asked “Where’s Dave?”. We found our answer in the parking lot. Dave was upside down in the driver’s seat, his legs up in the air as he searched for a blown fuel pump fuse in the rats nest of wires under the dash board. We all drove to lunch in my boring Honda Accord.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Regarding the Fiat 124 in the lede photo.

    I have driven one of these…an early 1970’s version, with the more delicate bumpers. It was the first time I had ever driven a two seater, first time I had driven a convertible, first time I had driven a European car other than a Beetle.

    I must admit, I was absolutely smitten! It wasn’t “fun” like the V8 Mustangs I had a driven….no neck snapping acceleration…but man, it was FUN in an entirely different way. So light, so nimble, so responsive. It was a lovely new kind of driving experience that I will never forget.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Counterpoint: I owned and loved a 1968 124A series sport coupe. 1968, twin cam 1.4L engine, 5 speed MT, disk brakes all around and set up for nearly neutral handling – little or no understeer/oversteer. Was so happy with it I bought a 1974 124 Spider. What. A. Pig. The engine was somewhat strangled by pollution controls, but the real problem was that with the addition of crash bumpers, the handling as awful. It was nose heavy, or set up to feel that way, with massive amounts of understeer. Still, on a nice day, putting the top down was 20 seconds of work without unbuckling the seat belt. I’d take the coupe any day if any weren’t long gone into piles of rust, but not the Spider. Strangely enough, I didn’t have any electrical problems with it.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        The coupe sounds lovely!

        Your comments are a great reminder that our experience in a car is always relative to our experience in other cars. No two enthusiasts have the same driving histories. What feels lazy and ponderous to a Fiat or BMW aficionado feels lively, even twitchy to a Dodge Charger owner. A Hellcat owner will think EVERY car but his own is slow!

  • avatar
    civicjohn

    I somehow made my dad take me to the M-B dealership in 1967 to look at a Fiat 124 Spyder (somehow the dealer was importing them), as I was convinced at 7 that this would be my car when I got my license. Never happened…

    Then a college buddy showed up in 1980 with a X 1 9. He kept it for 6 months, of which 3 were spent in the garage. Fix It Again Tony, indeed. There’s a reason FCA can’t move that nameplate in the US.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    One car that’s effectively unchanged since the 2012 introduction.
    One ugly wagon/crossover thing.
    One ugly duplicate of the Jeep Renegade.
    One Miata with a FIAT motor.

    I simply *can’t imagine* why FIAT doesn’t have greater volume in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I don’t find FIATs or Renegades ugly, but bad reputations die hard and FIAT just can’t seem to shake that. I would imagine MGs having the same problem if they were sold here

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I kinda feel badly for those FCA dealers who were essentially forced to build Fiat exclusive facilities. They got burned!

      –Then again, given how many customers get burned by those dealers, I guess I don’t feel too badly…..

      • 0 avatar
        Mnemic

        I get my oil changed at a couple Dodge dealerships that are also Fiat dealerships. The one has a small fiat “studio” with nobody in it, complete with vacated desks where the sales people use to work. The other is pretty much the same but a regular CDJR sales guy was sitting in there. They had 124 and 500 Abarths on display, both had been there for months.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Well they weren’t forced to take on Fiat, but if they did then yeah they got forced into spending money on the studio and I doubt they have made that money back yet, nor will they before they finally pull the plug in the Fiat brand in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      I like the 500X more than the Renegade.

      That being said, trying to make everything a 500 is a mistake. Also, they have some cool vehicles that could sell well.

      Sort of unfortunate at the end of the day.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I’ve seen exactly one 500X in the wild, it’s ok, but for less money and the “Jeep” name people are just going to go for the Jeep

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          The nice thing about the 500x is you can get a very affordable base model with the little turbo motor and a manual, making it literally the only fun-to-drive small CUV on the market. It’s a pretty tight little handler, and the long wheelbase for its size means it has a decent ride and reassuring stability too. To me it’s the king of all ace-of-base choices (and you can get it in screaming orange!). Only downside is those seats are narrow. Like Chevy Bolt narrow, Buick Encore narrow. Ya know…subcompact CUV narrow.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Well, they’ve been turning Fiat platforms into Jeeps, so it’s about time they turned Fiat platforms into Fiats too. This is a big turnaround from Sergio’s practice of cranking out the same model with few updates until the market stops buying, and then discontinuing it with no segment replacement ready.

  • avatar
    SnarkyRichard

    A friend of mine bought a Fiat X1/9 brand new back in the day . After about the tenth visit to the dealership in his first few months of ownership a mechanic asked him – “Don’t you know that Fiat stands for Fix It Again Tony ? “

  • avatar
    EGSE

    The article says Q1 2019 $117 million EBIT with 5.4% profit = $6.3-ish million (ignoring interest and taxes) X 4 = $25.3-ish million for a full year “profit”. If profit (using the somewhat bogus $25.3M number) were to let’s say quadruple it would be $101.2-ish million/year. At that rate it would take ~39.5 years to get back the $4 billion investment. 4X profit improvement seems unrealistically optimistic in any case but it’s a WAG.

    The FCA full year 2018 financials are here: https://www.fcagroup.com/en-US/investors/events/quarterly_results_presentations/FCA_2018_FY_and_Q4_Results_Presentation.pdf

    On page 3 highlights it says: “LATAM adjusted EBIT and margin more than doubled y-o-y to €0.4B and 4.4% respectively.” The 1Q 2019 numbers stated in the Bloomberg article are an improvement over FY 2018 but not by a huge amount taking the €0.89 = $1.00USD conversion as of today into account.

    If there are no substantial errors in the calcs above this doesn’t look like a good ROI. I am not an accountant by *any* stretch so if anyone has some insight as to how to interpret this it would be much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Drilled down to page 11 of the annual report: LATAM Net Revenue FY2018 = €8.2B. I interpreted the $117 million incorrectly. Ready….fire….aim.

    Maybe the numbers work out.

    Never mind…..

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I take it that the pictured row in the lead photo was some BHPH used car lot that was bought out?


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