Good News: The Fiat 500L Is Back in Production

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Fiat Chrysler’s Serbian assembly plant was the first European auto factory to shut down as a result of the growing coronavirus pandemic — a grim harbinger of things to come, and not just for Europe.

That temporary February shutdown stemmed from a parts shortage arising from the hard-hit Chinese manufacturing sector. A far more prolonged shutdown came in mid-March, for obvious reasons. Well, that’s all over, as a crucially important product is now back in production, ready to satiate the hunger of the American buying public.

Yes, as of Tuesday the Fiat 500L is again being assembled by the workers in Kragujevac, Reuters reports.

Obviously, it’s good news for the Serbian economy, though the plant’s reopening will do little to boost any fortunes on this side of the Atlantic. Certainly not Fiat Chrysler’s. The odd-duck 500L remains the weakest product sold by an afterthought brand that could dry up and blow away in the wind at any moment.

Fiat Chrysler really doesn’t like talking about Fiat’s potentially nonexistent future on these shores, yet the brand still manages to collect some buyers each month. Ever fewer buyers, but buyers just the same. In the second quarter of 2020, the 500L somehow amassed 124 sales in the U.S., bringing the model’s year-to-date total to 254 units — a 36-percent decline from 2019.

North of the border, in the semi-mythical land of Canadia, a grand total of three people drove home in a shiny new 500L in Q2 2020. Clearly, fear of the virus and various lockdown measures played a role, as Q1 saw five people do exactly this. The country’s first-half sales of eight 500Ls was in stark contrast to the 10 sales seen through June 2019.

How small a brand is Fiat these days? In the U.S., more people bought an Alfa Romeo Giulia in Q2 than they bought Fiats of any description, and the Giulia is not even Alfa’s top-selling model in that market.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler]

Steph Willems
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  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jul 07, 2020

    I can't be bothered to look up whether the Medusa-faced 500L is still on sale in Canada. Well, OK, I just did look for a hoot. Apparently available but online only. No wonder! Look at these countrywide MEGAsales: They sold 42 in 2017, 13 in 2018 with a 30% rebound to 16 last year. 2020 YTD is 5. This is a dead duck quacking. The 500 minicar sold 269 in 2018, 117 in 2019 and 12 this year so far. Gronk. You can't polish a you-know-what. Stick a fork in Fiats, they were done years ago and are getting stinky. It'd be cheaper to donate what's left in inventory to church groups to use as the Raffle Grand Prize than maintain a webpage. One of our local billionaires who owns 39 dealerships of every brand across the regon, refused to carry any Alfas after his Fiat "experience", so anyone who feels the urge can drive to Montreal 750 miles away and sample their delights. Then self-isolate for two weeks on the way back. Marchionne's folly, and he was a Canuck lawyer.

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jul 10, 2020

      Aren't there a bunch of Jeeps with the same underpinnings as the 500L? If so, the tooling is paid for, so they can mess with it a bit. How about a 4-door convertible? Maybe a mini-pickup? I think somebody with a sawzall and some welding chops could conduct some experiments cheaply.

  • Rando [h2]Coincidentally, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more than $41k as well -.-[/h2]
  • Ajla "Gee, wonder why car (as well as home) insurance rates are much higher in places like Florida..." Severe weather is on the list but even if a benevolent genie reverted the climate to circa 1724 I think FL would still have high cost. Our home insurance rates have increased 102% since 2021 and I don't think weather models account for that much of a change in that period. Florida's insurance assignment of benefit regulation meant that it had ~80% of the country's of the insurance lawsuits on ~12% of the nation's claims and litigated claims can be expensive to insurance companies. The state altered some regulations and is having some success on getting more companies back, even with the severe weather risks, through relatively bipartisan efforts. With car insurance just beyond the basic "Florida" stuff, the population increase of the past few years is overwhelming the roads. But, I think the biggest thing is we have very low mandated car insurance levels. Only $10K personal injury and $10K property damage. No injury liability needed. And 20% of the state has no insurance. So people that actually want insurance pay out the nose. Like I commented above my under/uninsured coverage alone is 2.5x my comprehensive & collision.
  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.