When the price of gas was getting close to $5 per gallon, Americans clamored for small, economical European cars such as the Fiat 500.
Fiat obliged after taking over Chrysler, and not only did it bring the 500 to U.S. shores, but it brought an entire family of 500-based cars including the 500L and 500X. Americans should have been thrilled. We should have flocked to our local Fiat dealerships and begged them to take our money.
That didn’t happen. Instead, dealers have struggled to even get the car in front of people, which has put the 500 among the slowest-selling vehicles in America. What happened? How did Fiat go from a desirable foreign brand to being shunned on dealer lots?
Here’s what one article had to say:
Chrysler’s Fiat brand has seen better days. The brand is struggling with declining sales even as the auto industry as a whole continues to report record sales. Year-to-date, Fiat U.S. sales dropped by more than 50% from the same time last year. Sales of the Fiat 500, the brand’s flagship car, fell by 25.6% from 2014 to 2015. Sales of the model have continued to fall this year, dropping by 50% year to date through the first three months of the year.
Consumer Reports published its list of 2016’s best car brands earlier this year and all Fiat-Chrysler brands, including Jeep, finished in the bottom third, with Fiat dead last. That came on the heels of J.D. Power’s annual initial quality study, which also had Fiat at the bottom of the list. That news, plus fuel-economy numbers that are about the same as those of the larger Honda Civic, have contributed to the 500’s failure in America.
I don’t see how the 500 can be saved here without a major overhaul. Its one saving grace is the 500X, which is a credible entry in the small crossover segment. However, the 500 name has already been labeled as poorer in quality and less reliable than other brands; these labels are the main causes of death of car models in this country.
Fiat might be better off keeping the 500 in Europe and trying to succeed in the U.S. with the likes of the 124 Spider, a Miata-based roadster that has potential to be the car that saves Fiat in America.
What would it take to put the Fiat 500 on your shopping list?