By on September 3, 2019

fiat cabrio abarth 500

The model that helped relaunch a long-departed brand — a brand which subsequently failed to clear the tower — is effectively dead in North America. Fiat Chrysler has taken the retro-themed, pint-sized Fiat 500 off life support, removing it from the brand’s North American offerings for 2020.

The newly turbocharged 500, its beefier Abarth brother, and the eco-warrior 500e electric, were victims of America’s unrelenting desire for large, spacious automobiles. The illness took hold almost as soon as the 500 arrived.

In releasing details of its 2020 model lineup, FCA omitted the most commonly seen Fiat on American roads. When pressed about the disappearing act, FCA replied to several media outlets this past weekend that, yes, the Fiat 500 and its variants would cease production for the North American market for 2020. Existing supplies of non-Abarth examples will continue to entice buyers into the coming year, a spokesperson told CNET on Monday.

Returning for 2020, much to the relief of dozens of buyers, is the 500X subcompact crossover, the 500L…thing… and the Mazda MX-5-based 124 Spider.

If the 500’s recent sales history tells us anything, it’s that buyers need not break local speed limits in their haste to reach a Fiat retailer before closing time. Cinquecento sales are a mere shadow of what the brand enjoyed after introducing the model at the 2010 L.A. Auto Show.

First reaching FCA dealers in July of 2011, the 500 benefitted from average gasoline prices flirting with the $3.50-$4.00 range and a slowly recovering economy. Its retro design, efficiency, and low entry price was enough to dispel worries about Italian reliability and more practical concerns about passenger and cargo capacity. As a second car, the 500 at the time made a lot of sense.

However, the 500’s first full year on the market turned out to be its best. Some 43,772 500s rolled into U.S. driveways in 2012. Such was the initial interest in the model, February 2012 saw 6,454 500s find new homes. In that high water mark month, the 500 sold 1,351 more units than the entire Fiat range sold in the first half of 2019.

Image: FCA

The decline began in 2013, with 500 volume dropping each year thereafter. Last year saw just 5,370 500s bleed from FCA lots; again, significantly less than the model’s February 2012 volume. It’s worth noting that the 2018 model year saw the 500 gain a standard turbocharged 1.4-liter powerplant, fixing just one criticism of the previously pokey model.

And, sadly for Fiat, the 500 remains the brand’s best U.S. seller. The 500’s volume over the first half of 2019 slightly outranks the 124 Spider and the 500X — a vehicle that any rational person would have expected to sell in larger numbers. The Jeep Renegade-based 500X saw its volume fall 54 percent through June. As for the 500L, it sold 399 units in the U.S. in the first half.

Things aren’t any better in the land of high gas prices to the north. While FCA Canada recorded 117,746 sales in the first half of 2019, only 209 of those vehicles bore Fiat badges. Put another way, only 0.177 percent of FCA vehicles sold in Canada through June were Fiats.

Image: FCA

With the 500L regarded as living on borrowed time and the Spider only made possible via a collaboration with Mazda (while also selling less than expected), one wonders how long the Fiat brand can continue to exist in America. FCA remains tight-lipped about Fiat’s American future. Europeans can expect a new, all-electric 500 and lengthier estate version next year, as well as the continuation of the original gas-powered model, but it seems the brand has basically thrown in the towel on this side of the Atlantic.

Could the 500 return as a slightly larger green model? FCA isn’t saying, but the brand won’t have much of a future here without something new coming down the pipe. Even if there is, perhaps. Still, while the 500e EV was useful for placating the Environmental Protection Agency, FCA lost money on each model sold; the automaker now prefers buying green credits from Tesla and paying an annual fine to the federal agency for all of its gas-swilling Jeeps and Rams.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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72 Comments on “Incredibly Shrinking Fiat 500 Finally Dropped in North America...”


  • avatar
    NoID

    I’ve said it a millions times…

    Once it was (painfully) obvious that Fiat wasn’t taking hold in North America, the entire lineup should have been Chrysler-ified in an attempt to save that brand here. FCA now finds itself in a position where the titular brands in it’s corporate identity are nearly non-existent on this side of the Atlantic. I could stomach Fiat being the anchor in Europe and Chrysler being the anchor here, but to have both brands on life support is not a good image.

    Would my strategy have worked? Long-term, probably not. The 500 would still be a slow seller simply because of what it is, and Chrysler needs more than badge engineering to stay relevant.
    But there’s no reason why slapping a Chrysler badge on the 500X and a restyled 500L and calling them something else (Alpine and Horizon?) wouldn’t have injected vitamin V into those models. Only the limited dealer network and non-existent brand recognition of Fiat could turn CUVs into lot poison. Put them on a CDJR lot with a recognizable badge and they’d sell.

    I do understand that Fiat was in somewhat of a bind in the manner they rolled the brand out to the USA, with dealers ponying up large sums to build independent Fiat “Studios” and wanting to recoup their monies. But doubling down on the Fiat brand clearly wasn’t going to get them any ROI.

    Sigh…TL;DR – The Fiat lineup isn’t half bad, the problem is that it’s a Fiat lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Yes, the 500X should have been a Chrysler, the 500L should never have been brought over (should have brought over Panda instead-maybe as a mini Jeep), and the 500 should have been a Chrysler 500 by Fiat or something.

      The original 500 never had the cultural impact in the US as say the original Mini- there really was no reason to launch a brand around it here.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        I figure they brought the 500L because the X was not ready for production yet. That being said, the L, now, almost surely is cannibalizing the X and should have been dropped a couple years ago.

        • 0 avatar
          Morea

          FCA likely knew the 500 would not be a big seller in the USA.

          Fiat did it to fulfill a commitment from the US Government to gain another 5% share in Chrysler.

          As our very own TTAC reported back in the day:

          https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/fiats-40-mpg-fiction/

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    “and the Spider only made possible via a collaboration with Mazda (while also selling less than expected),”. Yep, a failing brand working with a fading brand is a recipe for success.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Fiat never should have come back to the US to begin with; it’s not like it was a brand with a storied history here that consumers were longing for the return of, and it diverted attention and resources from Dodge/Chrysler’s car lineup. (I think nobody needs reminding of the total bungling of the Dart rollout.)

    What I don’t get is why they don’t just shut the doors on the brand entirely here. The product is essentially gone.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m guessing killing the brand would probably mean breaking their franchise agreements and having to pay their dealers a big pile of money.

      When GM killed Oldsmobile, they had to pay their dealers something around $1 billion to break the contracts.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “First reaching FCA dealers in July of 2011, the 500 benefitted from average gasoline prices flirting with the $3.50-$4.00 range and a slowly recovering economy.”

    No, it benefitted from being novel, and from Americans” belief in second chances. Fiat squandered the opportunity by not updating the product and expanding the line. And naming everything “500” is marketing foolishness.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    FIAT had a bad reputation that was not yet forgotten when FCA brought it back to North America. Memories are long when it comes to bad cars

    Fix It Again Tony

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      You didn’t help matters by reiterating that old meme, either. The 500 is a surprisingly good car for its size, as any number of real owners would tell you.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I’m sure it is, but people’s memories are long and it’s hard to recoup a good reputation once it’s gone, just ask Cadillac

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Fifty years is plenty of time to develop a good reputation. Problem is that the company essentially had to buck that old reputation simply because it had been missing from the US for 40 years and the worn-out versions were next to impossible to get repair parts. How many 60s and 70s vintage Fiats remain in the States with low mileage, after all?

    • 0 avatar
      ravenuer

      Fiat 1.0 gone. Fiat 2.0 going. Fiat 3……oh forget it.

    • 0 avatar
      Mnemic

      Lol whos “memories”? I am 38 and wasn’t around for their first go and neither was anyone younger than I. Weak argument. Simply poor marketing and a tiny niche product offering. Maybe now my cherry 27,000 mile Abarth will start to appreciate in value. (I know I’ll be waiting awhile)

  • avatar
    threeer

    Sad that the 500 was victim to America’s lust for all things CUV…and well, it suffered for being a FIAT, quite honestly. Still, the Abarth makes me giggle every time I see one and I always make sure to roll my window down to hear it pop, gurgle and snarl when it passes by me.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    When I bought the Jeep, the FIAT fixtures were sitting in the background— chipped red melamine wheel displays with no wheels remaining, color chips from long-retired paint schemes.

    The type of retail fixtures one finds in a thrift shop or flea market.

    And that’s two years prior to this announcement.

    The 500 was too technologically-forward to sell at the pricing schedule Americans demanded. Had FCA sold them at Versa pricing, I think they may have found more success.

    500 is the last cute car. All we’re left with are aggromobiles and ‘mature’ Rios and Accents.

    • 0 avatar
      Mnemic

      The 500 is a lot of things but “technologically-forward” isn’t one of them.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        Forgive my mistake. I assumed the TTAC audience held knowledge I only inferred.

        With the 500, FIAT tried to split the difference between the stupid-expensive and experimental nature of BMW’s MINI— with the cheap and outdated Nissan Versa product model.

        The 500 is a special car in that regard. Not unlike Ford’s Fiesta— which also failed in the same market niche.

        That’s all I was saying. Please try not to be so sharp. It changes the dynamic of your personal exchanges to one of negativity.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    Not surprisingly, I have a theory about this.

    It appeared that FCA gave Fiat a last push in 2016: they dropped the requirement that Fiats be shown in a separate showroom. That move alone nearly doubled their dealer count. And they cut prices aggressively for the 500 line.

    For 2018, FCA seemed to change it’s mind. A turbocharger was added to the 500 Pop and Lounge, but the price was increased, a lot.

    I have driven both a 2019 500 and a 2017 500, both Pop trim Cabrios. The 2017 had 15″ wheels with 55 series tires. The 2019, had the “improvements” made in the model in 18, including 16″ wheels with 45 series tires. The 17 rode quite well for such a small car, while the 19 bounced constantly. In effect, Fiat turned the Pop trim into a mashup of the earlier “Sport” and “Turbo” trims, both of which had been criticized for their harsh ride, and had been dropped in 2016 due to lack of sales. And, in traffic, the turbocharged 19 didn’t feel any faster than the non-turbo 17. So the net effect of their “improvements” in the 2018 500 were to take their best selling Pop trim and make it both more expensive and less pleasant to drive.

    Meanwhile, the 500X has received a new engine for 2019, a 1.3T, replacing the old 2.4. Test reports tend to agree that the 1.3T is a better engine than the 2.4, and the 2019 500Xs are pretty expensive for what they are.

    Several months ago, I read that FCA had zeroed out the Fiat advertising budget.

    My theory is that FCA decided to drop Fiat in North America in late 2017, but they don’t want to pay compensation to the dealers. So their strategy is to starve the dealers out by doing everything possible to kill sales: raise prices, no new models, make their most recognizable, best selling, model less appealing, and stop advertising support. Most of the dealers have hung on. So now, on top of the y/y 40% sales decreases, they now drop their most recognizable and best selling model, handing the dealers another 33% sales drop.

    What else are the MBAs at FCA working on? The 500L, mysteriously retained in the US line though it almost surely is cannibalizing the 500X, is expected to be replaced in the Serbian plant by the 500 Giardiniera in 2021, and management has said that, while the 124 is profitable for Fiat, there will probably not be a next gen 124 because it doesn’t fit their marketing plan.

    At some point, most of the dealers are going to throw up their hands and drop Fiat, and FCA management gets what it wants without paying compensation to the dealers it left swinging in the wind.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “My theory is that FCA decided to drop Fiat in North America in late 2017, but they don’t want to pay compensation to the dealers.”

      ^^ This. Those dealers who sprung for the $1 million standalone stores in 2011-12 never saw that money again.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>Those dealers who sprung for the $1 million standalone stores in 2011-12 never saw that money again.<<

        Around here, seems most of the free standing Fiat "studios" have been dualed up with Alfa. Of course, Alfa sales are in the tank, down 26% y/y for the first half of 19. In the back of my mind is the thought that the entire idea behind the "studios" was Marchionne was using Fiat as a trailbreaker for Alfa, getting the dealer network established before the higher transaction price, higher margin, Alfas were ready.

        The Fiat/Alfa store in Ann Arbor is a completely free standing building. What was the Fiat showroom at Golling CDJR in Bloomfield Hills is an addition to the building on the other side of the service department entrance from the CDJR store. The showroom space is now used by used car salesmen's desks, with one guy with a desk in the back corner, as the new Fiat salesman. All the Fiats are parked outside.

        • 0 avatar
          b534202

          When we bought my wife’s 500 it was part of an Alfa/Maserati dealership and was really nice. By the time the second warranty work had to be done, that place stopped selling Fiats and we had to bring it to a Dodge dealer, which was not as nice :p

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    To me the Fiat 500 was pure fun (and surprisingly roomy for two people despite its small size. The car’s problem wasn’t the car itself but rather American perception of the car based on a grossly obsolete reputation. If more people had at least test-driven it, I’m sure they would have sold a lot more.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      The real problem is the 500 is 13 years old now, and small cars don’t make money.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I test drove one a few years ago, and really wanted to like it.

      But at the time the multi-concentric gauges were almost impossible to read, and the 1.3 non-turbo required full throttle to effect any forward movement. Although the seats were comfortable, the car is really just for 2 people.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, but reviews on Internet were not good. It was just a matter of time when new bad reputation established itself, this time forever. I have no memory of FIAts if you do not count Ukrainian Zapors and Russian Ladas. In USSR FIAT had a good reputation. First FIAT 124 Lada clones were light years ahead of anything made before that in SU. But in US standards were much higher.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I always disagreed with those reviews (even the Rental Review by a TTAC writer) despite my own recall of their 60s reputation. Once I test drove a 500 for myself–believe it or not a former rental unit–I was shocked at just how far off those reviews were.

        I guess one thing that really upset me however, was that the rental agencies charged 4x the daily rental rate of the Ford Fiesta, its closest equivalent. At $200/day nobody would want to rent a Fiat when there were more ‘vanilla’ cars its size going for so much less. It leads me to believe there was active resistance to bringing Fiat to the US and that resistance has finally succeeded in driving the brand back out–comically so, in my opinion. It comes across too much like the resistance other brands have fought just trying to break into the American market, especially the Asian brands, who persevered through lower pricing and extended warranties until they were finally accepted. Remember how long it took Kia to be accepted?

        Funny thing is there were enough Asian-Americans buying the Asian cars to help them survive but the Italian-Americans simply ignore an equivalent car from their ancestral homeland. I am, by genetics, a German-American but honestly I prefer the Italian cars over the German ones… even after having spent two years in Germany with the USAF back in the 70s. Sure, German engineering certainly developed a reputation but today’s Fiat 500 is the equivalent of the VW Beetle, which is unfortunately also discontinued.

        I do agree with some of the others that Fiat’s mistake was in trying to make all their cars a version of the 500–at least in name and general appearance. I personally think the Panda and their other cars would have been a significant improvement in recognition factor than the 500L and 500X which both run on a similar platform as the Panda but, as their names imply, try to look like a 500. Marccione did many things right but that was probably his single major mistake.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    I feel bad for the dealers that built freestanding studios, the one closest to me is now a Subaru dealer. I think that was very optimistic for FCA to require that, I guess since the recession was fresh in the rearview mirror they figured small economical cars with some flair, would sell. Not unreasonable at the time, but looking back, man I bet a few were bankrupted in the process.

    I actually like the cars. I’ve rented a base 500, and found it fun and comfy enough. I’ve driven several Abarths and LOVE them. The sound alone makes owning one worthwhile IMHO. It seems like 2012 (first year for Abarth here) is perhaps the year to avoid, but I will happily pick up a 2013-up Abarth when the prices really take a dive.

    • 0 avatar
      Mnemic

      The cheap abarths are all ragged. Spend the money and find a one owner cream puff. They are only going to get more and more abused and beaten as time marches on and clean well taken care of ones are going to get harder and harder to find. Glad I already have mine ;)

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Such a shame, but I’m really glad we got the opportunity to see such a cheap and cheerful car sold here. I’m especially happy with the Abarth Cabrio I owned; I’d buy another in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I always think of the scene from the new old Top Gear where Clarkson was driving down the road pointing out all of them.
    “Fiat 500, Fiat 500, Fiat 500…”
    As successful as it was in Europe, someone should have realized that it would never be a volume seller here. It should have been the foot in the door to bring more appropriate models here.
    Smart, Fiat 500, and an ailing Mini prove that a brand of only small cars doesn’t work in the US.

  • avatar
    geo

    Only four seats doesn’t help, and neither does endless reports of unreliability and suspension problems, and poor resale.

    I still want one. The styling and interior is like nothing else, and they’re supposedly a joy to drive.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    My buddy bought one of these for his daughter. They have a failure in the fuel tank filler tube check valve that basically won’t let you fill at a rate past a thin trickle. The dealer solution is a new tank assembly for a thousand bucks. He was able to do some plumber’s special fix but the average owner would be really unhappy.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Too many corporate decisions based on ego at FCA.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I drove past a Mini Cooper dealer yesterday. I didn’t see a single car on the lot with fewer than five doors. They were Mini Coopers only in the sense that they had contrasting roofs, like the old ‘Counterfeit Mini’ commercials from 2003. Americans will only buy tiny cars in meaningful numbers some time after the meat is legislated out of our diets and our every thought is guided by soy estrogen.

    • 0 avatar
      stuckonthetrain

      I feel like it’s the Porsche paradox, where the brand icon (911, or in this case, the Cooper 2dr) is subsidized by the brand “leeches” (CUVs/SUVs). Here in suburban NYC, the 5 largest dealers move a decent number of Countrymen and Clubmen, but basically ignore the rest, except for special orders and some high-optioned models.

      A version of this seems to play out at CJDR dealers, where they move tons of Jeep and Ram, but basically ignore the rest, except for – again – special orders and high-optioned models. Island CJDR on Staten Island once tried to bait-and-switch me from an Abarth cabrio (but “had just been sold”, though it would stay on their website for months afterward) to a Grand Cherokee. WTF? And Fullerton in Dover NJ essentially put me in an airport shuttle and took me 2 counties over to see their 2 Abarths sitting in the weeds, both of which were leftovers, then almost pushing 2 years old.

      Ramsey has a decent, dedicated Fiat/Alfa store but all the service is done at their CJDR location… where the service advisors’ attitudes and disdain is only matched by the lack of loaners, and where Fiats move to the back of the line.

      Hell, even CDJRF of Manhattan has over 250 Jeeps, 25 Rams, and 35 Durango’s in inventory… and 0 Fiats.

      And all this is in perhaps the most prime Fiat sales territory.

  • avatar
    Mnemic

    Did they quietly drop the 500 a year ago in Canada? Fiat Canada website will only let you build a 2018 500

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’ve wanted a 500 since they first came out. Watching Clarkson hoon some “super 500” that wasn’t ever coming here on Top Gear made me want one more. I’ve driven a regular Turbo one disguised as an Abarth (much to the chagrin of the CJD dealer that took it on trade when I showed them it wasn’t an Abarth) I was able to drive a 2014 leftover GQ Cabrio in about 2016. I should have bought it, since the GQ was all the Abarth without the “boy racer” style and are now the more desired cars (though prized does not mean valuable).

    They are fun, they are odd and they are small. No, they aren’t that fast in Abarth form and they were too expensive initially compared to much better hot hatches. I love the cabrio cars but I didn’t buy one because it just didn’t fit what I really needed in a car. My 17 Golf is a much better car all around, but it’s not as much fun as the little Fiat.

    The 500L could be so much more, but the styling is odd, and it’s just not large enough to compete with better people haulers. It’s the Italian Mazda 5 and as much as I loved our 2008 5, the 500L didn’t even get that much love from the buying public.

    I’m not sure why the 500x doesn’t sell, brand familiarity for old timers, unfamiliarity for new buyers? I’ve never experienced one, the giant 500 styling isn’t the best, but they aren’t bad in higher trim.

    Fiat could have done so much more, could have been FCA’s Mini or Scion for at least a few years because both those brands ran their course quickly (Scion well before Toyota killed it.).

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      The 500x doesn’t sell because it’s grotesque. It takes the pleasant and harmonious elements of the 500 and lets them play around in Chernobyl for a month before picking them back up.

    • 0 avatar
      stuckonthetrain

      The GQ is indeed terrific. The slightly softer suspension and (modest) muffler helped win my wife over. I bought my 45k mi, 1-owner ’14 in ’18 for $9k… which also helped win my wife over. And the prior owner had already aesthetically “converted” it to Abarth-spec (wheels and badges, but thankfully no stripes).

  • avatar
    Ryan

    As a longtime owner/admirer of small automobiles (Miata, Fit, MR2, ZX2, Mini, S2000, etc) I tired to care. I remember sitting in one, circa 2012 while attending an Auto Show in Salt Lake City. I was underwhelmed with everything but its price. In my world’s eye, FIAT overpriced themselves. I believe if price started <$16k, they may have gained some following. Ultimately, at least in my circles – they were viewed as crap cars. Deservedly so, or not – I couldn't justify any more emotion than indifference.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    They are surprisingly useful as carshare cars, but that’s not a market to build your future around, to put it mildly.

    Small cars are just very difficult in the U.S, and the ones that do sell OK tend to be more utilitarian than stylish (Versa, Fit, Accent).

    What I don’t understand is why the 500L, possibly the turdiest car on the market now that the CR-Z and old Compass are gone, is sticking around.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I admit to being a bit biased, I had a 2013 Abarth HB and really enjoyed my 2 years with it. I never had any problems with the car but, alas, had to sell when I made a cross-country move.

    So, I was predisposed to liking the 500 and keep eyeing cheap used 500Cs and Abarths online and may take another leap some day.

    That said, I think FCA also sabotaged the 500 with their production mix. When they first came out in 2012 they sold fairly well for a small car… especially the less expensive Pop models with manual transmissions which never sat in inventory for very long. At around $16k these could afford to be cute little commuter cars. The problem was that most of the cars they had in stock were loaded automatics which collected dust in showrooms. At over $20k they just started to compete with larger, more comfortable, and more capable alternatives. Fiat completely failed to understand that the import-leaning buyers who wanted these didn’t care for automatics. I was told that in the first year, over 40% of Fiat 500 sales were manuals… but that wasn’t what they built. With the auto, the base 500 also got middling fuel economy for such a small car.

    The 500L is a fine car with a lot of practicality and amazing outward visibility, but it’s just odd, it was doomed from day 1 in the US. My sister in law bought a loaded one that was “new” but 2 years old when the local Fiat dealer closed the franchise. She got it for really cheap used car money and has not experienced a single problem with it and says she really enjoys it.

    The 500X looks nice and in world where small CUVs seem to be selling like crazy they should have done better. Again, though, they were fairly high priced. Additionally, while the mechanically-identical Jeep Renegade could be had in AWD and in mid-level trim with a manual transmission, only the base FWD 500X could be so equipped. I took this as a bad misreading of the market for the brand. Fiat buyers weren’t mass-market buyers.

    Every 124 Spider that the dealer nearest to me has had was ordered with an automatic. I never saw a single manual transmission in their inventory. I really don’t get it.

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    Big enough for two adults (and a couple of kids), fast enough to get John Law’s attention, thrifty enough to go 40-45 miles on a gallon, easy to service, not boring to look at in the driveway, not too expensive to buy, and reliable as anything else out there (despite the history of the name).
    If fuel prices and car purchasing were rational experiences, there would be shortages of 500s. We’ve had one since 2015 and have been very happy with it. Great urban/suburban transport device in an automobile-dependent world. My guess is that despite a seating redesign for the fat butts in this market, they’re still too small for the average grain-fed murkin.
    This is a loss, especially as it points out that the inattentive brutal aggressives have won.

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      What model year did this alleged seat redesign appear? The one I rented was several years ago and I fit great, and I’m not at all small.

      • 0 avatar
        retrocrank

        Seating was redesigned prior to American introduction. I’ve had Italian (market and built) 500s as rentals in Yurp and they sit different than the US/Mexican version. At the time the redesign was chalked up to the wider murkin butt, an attribution my experience suggests is correct.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “If fuel prices and car purchasing were rational experiences. . . .” I think this is true, and I think you’ve also hit on a double-whammy of sorts. Rational buyers tend to hold onto their cars longer, so a person likely to buy a 500 as an urban runabout probably skews toward a schedule of buying a car every 10 to 15 years rather than every 5 to 10.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    500 Abarth manual could be fun but then again so is a go cart.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    I’ve always said that bringing in the 500 instead of the Alfa Mito was one of Sergio’s biggest mistakes. The Mito would have attracted a lot more men and would have paved the way for the Alfa brand. I drove a Mito QV (1.4T from Abarth) in Mexico and it was one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven. The suspension was awesome and even with the 18″ wheels the ride quality was impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      Good ole dayz

      I just did an Internet search on the Mito. You are absolutely right. T

      he 500 was always considered a chick car. T hat might not bother “man bun” millennials (might even be a positive as far as they’re concerned), but for normal guys that means no sale.

  • avatar
    markf

    The 500, fair or not was perceived by most as a “Chick car” or as they say in the UK a “Hairdresser’s car” Women looked at it and thought “it’s cute” No guy wants anyone to comment that his car is “cute” Of the few I have seen they were almost all driven by women.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    There is nothing wrong with the Fiat 500 that three-row seating, ten more inches of ground clearance and another $15,000 added to the sticker price won’t solve (said sarcastically).

  • avatar
    Good ole dayz

    Remembering how much fun they were to drive (yes, back in their “bad old days” in the 1970’s), I still have a soft spot for FIAT (and Italian cars in general).

    The BIG mistake was lack of follow-up product. The 500 would have been a fine first entry, but then there were no larger vehicles (sedans and wagons of “Camry” size) and, in particular, nothing like the X1/9 or 124 Coupe or Spider. (The badge-engineered Mazda doesn’t count as true FIAT Spider / Italian sports car). For FIAT, the affordable sports cars are the iconic models.

    Unfortunately, the same mistake is being made with ALFA. Nothing like a GTV or Spider, and the Giulia is only available with an automatic (DSG transmission).

    The 4C really isn’t a Spider successor as much as a Lotus lookalike, and it’s small (not a weekend car for two like a Spider could be). Do a search of the 8C Spider and just imagine an affordable Spider inspired by that and the iconic 1960’s on Pininfarina Spider; with an accompanying Coupe version. These would be halo cars that would then help sales of the Giulia etc.

    As far as the Stelvio, every manufacturer has one and other than some minor variations in grilles, they all look alike — big yawn regarding them all.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The biggest mistake was following the MINI marketing playbook; FCA has done little different with the 500 as BMW did with MINI. The flipside to that is BMW has the monetary and management wherewithal to press forward with their marketing plans, where we don’t know what the Hell FCA was thinking.

    Fiat could have followed up with Federalized versions of other cars they have in ROW markets, being cheap and cheerful alternatives to the Universal Asian Cars, with the 500 as a the spiritual leader of the pack. Not horribly misshapen 500 morphos that we were given.

    OTOH, VW just cancelled the Beetle again, Scion is dead, Smart is dead (or if it isn’t, it will be soon) and Nissan is desperately trying to move their crap upmarket as quickly as they can. But, Hyundai and Kia have managed to transcend their humble beginnings, though.

    Fiat has been mismanaged to near-death and is threatening to take Alfa and Maserati with it. The 500 was the anchor baby in the grander scheme of things and FCA allowed RAM (!) and Jeep to suffocate it in it’s crib.

    Next up, Chrysler and Dodge. Starved of product, eventually all the people who want a Chally or a Charger will buy one and there will be nothing else left to sell. Chrysler is down to one viable product, as it looks like the 300 is in it’s final lap. I hope FCA can make a presence with only Jeeps and trucks.

    No more cheap and cheerful entries in the USDM market, it will all be silver-beige-gray Ford Ecosports from here on out.

    Ugh.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    You know, it is strange that they dropped the 500 itself but NOT the 500X and 500L. Something’s going on here that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Could it be that the two remaining models are going to see a name and appearance change in another year or two? It could even herald a different “500” coming in 3 to 5 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      >>You know, it is strange that they dropped the 500 itself but NOT the 500X and 500L. <<

      I have two theories about that:

      1: knowing that the 500 was the car most identified with Fiat, and the best seller, killing it sends the message that the brand is dead and dealers would be well advised to drop it to cut their losses.

      2: the X and L are both built in Europe, on the same lines that build the same model for the EU market, so the marginal cost of building a handful for the US is small. The 500, on the other hand, is not built on the same line as the EU market 500, but, instead shares Toluca Assembly with the Journey and Compass. The cost to reset the Toluca line to run off a handful of 500s occasionally, and keeping the Mexican supply chain alive for such a small volume, made the car unprofitable.

      • 0 avatar
        stevelovescars

        Right… starve the dealers so that they give up before FCA has to pay them to go away when they kill the brand in the US again.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Another possibility is that they’re going to build something ELSE in the Toluca plant and need the capacity, while the 500 itself is small and light enough that shipping from Europe to Central and South America reduces overall costs by bringing all the Cinquecento assembly back home (some mention, I believe, of excess capacity in one of the former Soviet Block countries?) Also, I would not be too surprised if the 500 comes back as an upgrade from the now 15-year-old model.

        And since the 500L sees such low sales as to nearly match the 500 itself and the 500X doing modest but better sales than the other, I begin to wonder if there’s not something pending that equates to that ‘mini Renegade’ model coming in to replace the 500 itself. Something a little boxier but still larger than the 500 but smaller than the Renegade.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve203

          >>Another possibility is that they’re going to build something ELSE in the Toluca plant and need the capacity, <<

          We keep waiting for the Journey to go toes up, which would create a lot of extra capacity at Toluca. Last winter, FCA announced they were going to start building the Compass for EU markets at Melfi, rather than importing from Mexico, so that creates available capacity at Toluca.

          The only thing coming that is on the Compass platform, that I know of, is a 3 row version of the Compass, to be badged as a Fiat in South America, and a Jeep everywhere else. Jeep may have seen the success VW is having with the three row Tiguan and decided to offer a 3 row Compass in the US.

          Either way, dropping the 500 only frees up 5-6,000 production slots per year at Toluca. Jeep sold nearly 74,000 Compasses in Europe last year. Moving that production to Melfi will have a far larger impact on Toluca.

          As for bringing the 500 to the US from Poland or Italy, the original 500 was designed without any thought to sale in the US, so the car had to be reengineered for US specs, to the point that the two are really not compatible. The next gen 500 is supposed to be electric only, and Smart already showed what happens to a thinly distributed, tiny, electric only, model, in the US.

          As for the "mini Renegade", as I speculated in the post about FCA's European CAPEX program, the "mini Renegade" is probably seen as a replacement for the Panda Cross, and badged as a Jeep, because FCA seems to think they can get more gross margin by sticking a Jeep badge on anything.

          If the "mini Renegade" was sold in the US, it would be sold as a Jeep. Consider the Renegade and 500X. I actually like the looks of the 500X better, especially the lack of "Easter eggs", which come across to me as childish graffiti. But the Renegade is sold in 10 times as many dealers, and has the magical Jeep badge on it, and outsells the 500X by more than 20:1. Logic says anything even remotely pretending to be off-road capable, *must* be labeled a Jeep, rather than a Fiat.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Thought that the 500/Fiat marque might do better in Canada due to 1) Quebec’s market which prefers small, inexpensive vehicles, and 2) the large ‘Italian’ population in the GTA as well as Hamilton and Sault Ste Marie.

    However those of Italian heritage who have ‘made it’ prefer much larger and more expensive vehicles.

    The 500 was originally overpriced and then once prices were cut, it was viewed as the ‘unwanted sister’.

    Have 2 friends who drive 500’s (both female) and they have both had positive experiences, even in the winter.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    I had mentioned earlier the guy in Chicago who had done youtube video updates on his 2012 500 every year, until he sold it a few months ago.

    In his update from a year ago, he talked about the new 16″ wheels and tires he had gotten for the car, and noted that, oddly, NTB could not find new TPMS sensors to put in the new wheels, so resorted to moving the existing sensors from the old 15″ steelies to the new wheels.

    I took a look on the official Mopar parts site this morning. Sure enough, Fiat 500 TPMS sensors are no longer available from FCA. They still have new 500s on the lot, and they have already started discontinuing parts for them. A web search for the part number turned some up on Amazon and Rock Auto, but what happens when their inventory of sensors is depleted? Will owners be stuck trying to make the “universal” sensors from Auto Zone work?

    FCA’s attitude seems to be that the batteries in the original sensors in a car will last until the 4 year warranty is out, and, after that, it’s the owner’s problem. All this doen’t seem to provide encouragement that FCA will make any parts and service support available for the 500 the moment the last one sold is out of warranty.

    Heck of a death for a really neat car.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Why does a TPMS have to be brand and model specific?

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>Why does a TPMS have to be brand and model specific?<<

        I don't know but that is apparently the case. I see several different part numbers just among FCA models.

        Now, this is odd. Now, the Mopar parts site is showing the part number as 68241067AB and available for $96.20 each. This morning, the site was showing a different part number, and unavailable.

        A half hour ago, I looked for parts on the Mopar site for a 500X, and there were no parts shown at all. Now, the part menus are all there and everything looks normal.

        Lucky me, Mopar must be updating the on line parts catalog today, and the site is giving a lot of erroneous search results during the update.

        By the way, for the 500X they are showing the in wheel sensor available, but not the receiver. And now, the parts page for the Jeep Renegade is blank.


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