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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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Disappointed Brandon
By Keeir on 8/17/2011 2:37:44 PM , Rating: 2
I am a little disappointed Brandon.

In July 2011, Fiat apparently move ~3,000 500. Thats a year rate of ~36,000. Which is not really bad, or that far off a 40,000 a year target.

In addition, people need to realize the shear scope of the US automobile market. Each year ~12-13 million automobiles are sold. In boom years, this number has reached more than 15 million, and in worst years still around 10 million.

For a individual car family success could be measured on this scale

0-10,000 specality/failure
10,000-30,000 niche
30,000-60,000 bit player
60,000-120,000 moderate success
120,000-240,000 very successful
240,000 + best seller

In July 2011, 6 cars and 2 trucks were selling at a rate approx equal to 240,000 a year.

All 6 cars were "D" market or very large "C" market cars.
Even if the 500 was very succesful for the "B" market, it would be a bit player in the US market. The entire Mini brand is a bit player. Only 1 hybrid has consistantly sold at a level to be above a bit player in the market. Most hybrids struggle to be more than niche.

Fiat said they essentially hoped to sell around 15% of the number of Camry, Cruze, Altima, Sonata, Malibu, Fusion, etc.

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