The original Fiat 500 is an iconic people’s car, giving 1950s Italy a taste of car ownership. But that little jellybean of a car spiraled into an unforgettable nameplate that put the company on the map. Now, over 60 years later, and with the new 500 discontinued, Fiats are struggling to sell. In fact, it’s been 25 consecutive months where Fiat has failed to sell over 1,000 cars in the US, but does this mean Fiat is coming to an end?
A brief summary of the new generation of Fiats
The new Fiat 500 was brought to the states in 2010, revealed at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, and released to the public in 2011. And at first, the press was great! Right out of the 2009 recession, many people valued smaller, fuel-efficient cars. And the 500 managed to do the same thing the Beetle did, capitalizing off of its retro style. After all, who could say no to that face?
However, after years of ownership, it became clear that the Fiat 500 was very similar to most Italian cars in terms of reliability. Sales slowed, even as the company introduced new trims like the Fiat 500L in 2012 and the and 500X in 2014. So, in 2019, the Fiat 500 was discontinued, followed by the 500L in 2020.
The only two Fiats on sale in the US are the Fiat 500X and the 124 Spider convertible. And together, the two cars have been flopping in sales, failing to sell over 1,000 new models since 2019.
Fiat has failed to sell over 1,000 cars since May of 2019
All the following statistics come from GoodCarBadCar, and from a sales perspective alone, Fiat’s look like bad cars. In May of 2019, Fiat managed 1,025 new car sales in the states. While this may partly be due to the Fiat 500’s last hurrah, with people buying the last model year, it’s a low number in and of itself. And sales in the states have only been getting worse since.
In April of 2020, Fiat sales dipped to an all-time low, getting just 241 cars off the dealership lot. This is in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but even after sales spiked the next month for all automakers, Fiat only sold 536 cars. Some quick math means they made about 13 million dollars, which sounds impressive. That is, until you realize most automakers meet that revenue goal by selling a single model.
And even in the company’s resurgence, sales weren’t terribly high. At their peak from 2012 to 2014, sales hovered in the 4,000s every month, meaning they sold roughly 48,000 cars a year. That’s not bad, but it’s no best-selling Toyota. And as the years went on, Fiat sales only shrunk.
So the company’s future in America has been fading away for a while, but does that mean Fiat is bound to go defunct like Pontiac and Oldsmobile before them?
Sales in Europe are considerably stronger
The short answer is that, in Europe, Fiat is actually rather successful. Not only do their small cars cater to the people and car market across the pond, but there are more to choose from. The Fiat 500 and Fiat 500L models never went off sale, and there’s even an electrified Fiat 500e as well. Not to mention two models may have never heard of: the Panda and the Tipo.
To say Fiat is going under is a gross exaggeration because the small and quirky city cars do have some appeal in foreign markets. If you want to go down some automotive rabbit holes, look up the history of car markets in other countries. Japan has a particularly interesting history, with government regulations and taxes shaping their automotive landscape… or maybe I just put you to sleep by saying “government regulations.”
So the little Italian brand may fade from American markets because, quite frankly, if people are looking for an SUV, a Fiat is the last car on their minds. And if people want Italian performance cars, sister company Alfa Romeo will fill that gap better than the Fiat 124 Spider can. So Alla Prossima, until next time!