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Fiat 500c and 500
Fiat blames nascent dealer network on poor sales

Fiat was supposed to make a triumphant return to the U.S. market with its diminutive and distinctively styled 500. However, things haven't exactly panned out exactly the way that Fiat planned according to The Detroit News.

The 500 is a subcompact that is being pitted directly against the Mini Cooper (an upcoming Arbath model will target the Mini Cooper S). On a lesser degree, the 500 also competed with the Smart fortwo and the upcoming Scion iQ.

However, sales of the tiny four-seater are nowhere close to reaching the lofty goals set by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. Fiat expected to sell 50,000 500s during 2011 in North America. Through the first seven months of 2011, Fiat sold fewer than 12,000.

For comparison, BMW AG's Mini brand had total sales of 34,527 through July. The two-door Cooper/Cooper S coupe and convertible models alone accounted for over 20,000 of those sales.

Laura Soave, head of Fiat North America says that establishing a dealer network in the U.S. has taken longer than expected which has contributed to the poor sales. "We have coverage now, so now is the time for us to turn this up," Soave added.

Two basic models of the vehicles are currently available to U.S. customers: the 500 (coupe) and the 500c (convertible). The cheapest model available is the 500 Pop which has a base MSRP of $15,550 (the cheapest Mini Cooper will set you back $19,400). The Fiat 500 also has good fuel economy for a subcompact with EPA ratings of 30mpg in the city and 38mpg on the highway with a 5-speed manual. 

Shares of Fiat SpA dropped over 4 percent on the news of poor 500 sales.

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Fiat EVO
By jatkinsaut on 8/17/2011 9:34:14 AM , Rating: 2
I drove a Fiat Punto EVO around Europe a month ago, and it was impressive. I drive an Acura TL over here, and the Fiat is vastly different, but still very good. Diesel is cheaper than gas over there, wonder why it's the reverse here?

RE: Fiat EVO
By Gondor on 8/17/2011 9:45:05 AM , Rating: 2
Diesel is cheaper because it is used by trucks and governments deliberately keep the tariffs on diesel fuel down in order to appease the truckers.

As for the car and comparisons with Ford Focus et al: neither this nor Mini is the best-bang-for-buck kind of vehicle, unlike Focus. It's an attempt at a status symbol (a "fashion statement", if you will), hence to rather absurd price tag for its passenger/luggage capacity, engine power and gear. It's a car directed towards female crowd, just like Mini, VW Beetle, Mazda Miata and the likes of these.

RE: Fiat EVO
By zmatt on 8/17/2011 10:26:28 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure what pricing you are looking at but 15k is about at the bottom for a new car that isn't a Daewoo. the 500 is very cheap. You can blame inflation on making 15k cheap though. Most cars run around 30k when you are done optioning them out and paying taxes, and SUVs tend to run more. The Focus which you consider a better deal starts at 18k and the Fiesta which is the 500's competitor starts at 14k only 1 grand less than the 500. So how is it over priced?

I also take issue with the Miata being directed at the female crowd. I autoX on a regular basis and by far the most common car is a Miata. It's a very good car. It's simple to work on, reliable, and on certain tracks such as autoX faster than Z06 corvettes. It's the car for people who want to have their cake and eat it. Likewise the 500 is a very fun drive as well, and even if the interior is cheap (but what isn't at 15k?) it is still very good.

RE: Fiat EVO
By Brandon Hill on 8/17/2011 10:31:11 AM , Rating: 3
Cheapest new car in the U.S. is the 2012 Nissan Versa. Sedan starts at $10,990. It's ugly as hell, but it gets the job done:

RE: Fiat EVO
By Samus on 8/17/2011 12:17:59 PM , Rating: 2
God the Versa is ugly.

The 500 is overpriced. It's not that its current price is bad but that the 'Pop' model is poorly equiped. Something the story failed to emphasize is that the Mini base model at 20k is better equiped than the Fiat 500 Sport (which is 20k.) Ridiculously, none of these trims are offered with leather as standard (except for the steering wheel...yes, the Pop doesn't even have a leather steering wheel)

I remember specing out a 500 Sport at the car show last February and it was around 23k after taxes and destination. The Mini Cooper I speced was better equipped for 22k.

And when you consider other small fashionable vehicles like the Fiesta, I wonder why they're having trouble selling 500's?

RE: Fiat EVO
By Iaiken on 8/17/2011 2:32:17 PM , Rating: 2
As a Miniac, I had the opportunity to take a 500 Sport out on Mosport raceway when Fiat was trying to drum up some PR and some interest back in June.

The 500 is priced like a Mini and they are trying to sell it like a Mini, but it's not a Mini. The interior finish is not as nice, the ride is mushy, the shifter-gate drives me crazy, the car sways heavily in the turns and you really feel it because of your upright driving position. Above all, it's slower than even a stock justacooper and it bleeds off far more speed in the twistiest sections than the cooper.

The items that stood out most to me vs the cooper were the 500's cheep torsion bar rear suspension (vs the Coopers multi-link MacPherson struts) and the 5-speed transmission (vs the 6-speed getrag in the Cooper). One can only hope that the 500 Abarth fixes at least these two glaring by adding a 6-speed and anything more sophisticated than a torsion bar at the rear wheels. The first I can see, but the second would require taking away space from the rear cabin (already in short supply) in order to make room for a strut/coilover assembly.

RE: Fiat EVO
By YashBudini on 8/17/2011 8:46:22 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like the Chrysler philosophy. Except for maybe acceleration what can a 300 do better than a comparatively priced BMW?

RE: Fiat EVO
By Jeffk464 on 8/17/2011 2:41:14 PM , Rating: 2
I worked for Nissan, the Versa has a solid rear suspension which really messes up the ride and handling. But although new the power train seemed like its probably going to be reliable. I guess it works, I would be tempted to buy a nicer used car before I bought a versa.

RE: Fiat EVO
By Iaiken on 8/17/2011 10:38:47 AM , Rating: 2
Ignore Gondor, he hates all things european, or things that have style, or are fun.

The autocross events up in Toronto are dominated by two cars, Mini Cooper S, Mazda MX-5. Sometimes you see the odd BMW 1-series or S2000 with a skilled driver manage to place.

I've been running an 06' Cooper JCW for 5 years and I can safely say that it's more fun for the dollar than any other sub-$50,000 car I have driven. Beyond that, you're getting into Elise, Cayman, Corvette, TTS, M3 territory.

Though I still try to occasionally talk my wife into letting me have an Ariel Atom as my next garage queen.

RE: Fiat EVO
By Gondor on 8/17/2011 11:01:55 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, I do ?

I pointed out that it is possible to get more car for your money by opting for just about any other small alternative, including other FIAT models of roughly this size. 500 is not meant to be an economy car, FIAT has other models in their lineup to fill this market segment.

A quick comparison of prices:
FIAT Punto Evo 1200 ccm (3 door) = under 9000 Euros
FIAT Panda (same engine) = under 7000 Euros (!)

There's just no way to get FIAT 500 (which is smaller than either of these two) any cheaper. The baseline 1200 ccm engine model costs ~10000 Euros. It's a retro revival of the model 500 from 1950s and onwards and it is priced accordingly, just like Mini (nw take on Morris Mini) and Beetle (remake of VW "Bug"). This is all there is to it.

RE: Fiat EVO
By 306maxi on 8/17/2011 11:22:59 AM , Rating: 2
Some people don't get this.

Personally for me the 500 was overpriced. When we bought ours it was £10,720 including leather and a few other options, but we got ours through the scrappage scheme and we got 2k off for scrapping a non-running car. Thing is there are tonnes of people here who will pay full price for it over here.

In the US I think they should have gone in with some more conventional models first though.......

RE: Fiat EVO
By zmatt on 8/17/2011 7:21:00 PM , Rating: 2
The Cooper is actually $5k more than the 500. And btw the Cooper is actually the "hot" mini everywhere else in the world. Most people get what's called a mini one, which would be a better match for the base the 500. The 500 Abarth is supposed to cost similar to the Cooper S when we get it, but in US spec it will be as powerful as the Abarth essesse in europe. As for why they chose the 500 first, probably for image. They needed a good looking car that would get people's attention. the Punto and the Panda are pretty bland cars that probably wouldn't sell well in America. The only way you can push something like a mini or a 500 here is by making it stylish and fun. The American concept of a family car is something along the lines of a Camry not a Golf. Because of that a small and practical Panda would fail horribly here.

Also, I rode in a cooper today and while it handled well and went ok, it noticeably lost power with the AC on and the interior was very cheap. In my personal experience the 500 is just as good and is a good competitor. I think the biggest hurdle isn't the 500 itself, but the slow dealer growth and almost no national marketing. I have yet to see a Fiat commercial.

RE: Fiat EVO
By siuol11 on 8/22/2011 2:14:48 PM , Rating: 2
Funny, I think the Punto is a MUCH better looking car.

RE: Fiat EVO
By Kiffberet on 8/18/2011 8:03:01 AM , Rating: 2
The Fiat 500 is overpriced.
In the UK the Ford KA, is the equivalent to the 500. They even share the same engine and other parts.

But if the Fiesta, which is the model up from a KA and below a Focus, cost a grand less than the Fiat, that certainly points to overpricing. The Fiesta is one of the best performing, and specced cars in it's group for that price tag, so Fiat need to do something price wise to compete!

RE: Fiat EVO
By Jeffk464 on 8/17/2011 2:36:06 PM , Rating: 2
Why would any buy the one of these over the new ford fusion, civic, or Hyundai elantra. Their are much nicer cars that get excellent mileage.

RE: Fiat EVO
By zmatt on 8/17/2011 7:21:56 PM , Rating: 2
different market segments. You can't compare apples to bananas.

RE: Fiat EVO
By Spuke on 8/18/2011 11:40:04 AM , Rating: 2
different market segments. You can't compare apples to bananas.
You can most definitely compare the Civic and the Elantra as they're in the same price range and people WILL be crosshopping those cars.

RE: Fiat EVO
By 91TTZ on 8/18/2011 4:12:59 PM , Rating: 2
You can compare them.

They're in the same market segment because the price is the same. Someone with $15k to spend is going to look at the $15k Fiat and the $15k Elantra. They're not going to seriously consider a $30k car just because it has similar exterior dimensions as the Fiat.

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