07 July 2010

Fiat 500 Going Stateside


Fiat hasn't been in the US market for at least a quarter of a century. Now it is to return by the end of 2010, selling one model through about 200 Chrysler dealers. Fiat owns Chrysler and is using this to do a 'MINI' and sell a small trendy car to urban dwellers.

Will it work? Well BMW's MINI is but Daimler's Smart isn't. MINI has been in the US since 2002 and has gone from strength to strength. For the first six months this year, 21,000 have sold, about the same as last year. Smart, on the other hand had a burst of interest in its first year of 2008, but so far in 2010, sales are a dismal 3,350, minus 61% compared to 2009! The 500 is between the MINI and Smart so it could go either way. I'm picking a flurry then modest sales.

MINI worked as it was well marketed and variants were introduced to keep interest. It's also not that small. The 500 won't do a 'MINI' on the US market, and I'm picking it will be a tough sell. Using this as an attention grabber before bringing larger Fiats onto the market may be the way to go, but getting market share will be a challenge whatever Fiat does.

The bottom line: Well worth a punt.

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