2013 was supposed to be the year that Fiat came into its own here in the United States. This just hasn’t happened. After a promising start to 2013, sales have started to decrease in the latter half of the year. This has been devastating to many dealers around the United States.
Dealers Losing Money
In 2009, Chrysler- who was on the verge of bankruptcy- was taken over by Fiat. At the time, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne promised to move Chrysler away from its gas guzzling reputation. His leadership and approach has helped Chrysler bounce back, but it has come with a price: Fiat dealerships. Currently, there are approximately 210 Fiat dealerships around the United States, and many of these are being run by owners that have large investments in Chrysler. This piggy backing technique has cost a lot of people a lot of money.
Gary Brown, who is the chairmen of the Chrysler Dealer Council and also owner of a Fiat dealership, says, “I’m struggling to break even. With the one car in a small (volume) segment, it’s a tough go right now.” He is just one of a number of people who are learning that the Fiat might not be suited for Americans quite yet. Alan Haig, president of the automotive services for Presidio Group, says, “I think most dealers have been disappointed in the performance of their Fiat dealerships…It’s sad to say, but it’s become a stepchild. Chrysler doesn’t want to hear that, but that’s the reality.”
When Will the Tide Turn?
For the past year or two, these are the type of reports that have been coming out about Fiat. Fiat has been trying to weather the storm. Company representatives have been saying that Fiats will take a while to gain steam here in the United States.
Okay. That seems reasonable; after all, it had been 16 years since the Fiat line was sold in the United States. So, maybe it will take some time.
The company has also been putting a lot of stock in the fact that new product lines and more options will help the sales of the car. At the beginning of 2013, almost all of their sales were hinging on the Fiat 500, a two door, light weight, fuel efficient car.
Well, this past summer they released the Fiat 500 L, and sales haven’t gotten any better. The 500L is a four door alternative that was supposed to appeal to American’s love of bigger cars. However, this car is not doing well, either.
The problem with the Fiat strategy is that they are trying to sell Americans on something that they just don’t want. In a way, it’s kind of like soccer. For years, there have been commercials and product pushes that try to get Americans excited about soccer. But, it just isn’t going to happen. Americans want football and basketball, sports that are based on size, power, athleticism, and STRENGTH.
The same goes for automobiles. Fiat has had a lot of success taking over Chrysler because they scaled back a company that had gone too far with the bigger, badder, gas guzzling mentality. But at the same time, they didn’t take away what we Americans love. So far, Fiat lines haven’t embraced the American way. They haven’t looked to fully incorporate speed and muscle into their European formula. Basically, they haven’t been giving us something that we actually want. They’ve simply been pushing what Europeans want. Until they change this, Fiat will have a rough time.
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