We are seeing a lot of model shuffling with all of the car companies and Fiat is no different. Fiat brand CEO Olivier Francois gave some hints about the future of Fiat to Autocar. He said Fiat wants to change direction to achieve “the right balance between the two dimensions: the Fiat 500 family and family transportation. There will be no big cars, no premium cars, no sporty cars because they have no legitimacy. We will be present in the C-segment but not much more. (The C-segment makes up models like the VW Golf, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Opel Astra.) All models will sit with 3.5m and 4.5m (11.5- to 14.8-feet). This is where Fiat will play. We need more EVs. And we need more 500 models that look legitimate enough to take higher pricing.”
“Sporty Cars No Legitimacy”
So let’s interpret: When Francois says that big, premium, and sporty cars “have no legitimacy” that’s the kiss of death for any Fiats that fall within those segments. That surely means there will be no more Fiat 124 Spiders, and that the ax may fall sooner rather than later.
The 124 Spider is based on the Mazda MX-5/Miata platform. Though it looks unlikely that Mazda will develop another generation of this platform, we suspect they will run out the production for a few more years. The last generation lasted for 10 years. With Mazda cranking out Miatas and MX-5 models, Fiat may choose to continue offering this either due to contractual arrangements with Mazda or because they don’t have a lot of development money into the car.
When Francois was pressed he said the 124 was a profitable model but “such a car may not be key to the future of the brand. It is not what I’d call a pure, absolute Fiat, but for now, it remains an interesting opportunity.” It doesn’t sound like there is much interest or momentum behind the 124 from the CEO.
Is It Worth It?
The 124 almost doesn’t seem like it’s worth dealing with based on its numbers. The sales in 2016 were 2,475, 4,478 for 2017, and last year they fell to 3,515. Fiat is a production giant in Europe. These numbers don’t look like they’re worth much of the effort to inventory parts, warrantees, and marketing for 3,500-and-falling sales.
From a heritage standpoint, the 124 line was one of Fiat’s top sellers in the 1960s and 1970s. It was offered as a coupe, station wagon, spider, and a lengthened 125-sedan that was more luxurious yet retained the sport-like handling of the 124.
European Car of the Year
Besides becoming the 1967 European Car of the Year, it was popular for its spacious interior, sporting suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and lightweight construction.
The 124 also became the Lada 1200 and 1300 in Russia, the SEAT 124 under license to Spain from 1968-1974, the Pirin-Fiat in Bulgaria, Murat 124 in Turkey, Fiat-KIA 124 in South Korea, and the Lada-Egypt in Egypt. Obviously, enough manufacturers in other markets found value in the 124 for national interests.
It sold well in the US, too. Maybe Fiat thought lightning could strike twice, or that it was worth tacking the 124 name onto the Spider to rekindle interest? Whatever the reason, it looks like its days are numbered.