Fiat’s re-entry into North America looked to be going well in 2012, when the brand sold 55,600 units with only one model, the 500, in its showrooms. The brand’s sales peaked in 2014 at 58,775 units, but last year they fell off 11 percent to 52,299.
Automotive News recently set out to find the truth behind why Fiat isn’t getting off to a very good start in North America. Appropriately, they asked the three men in charge of the brand in North America, Olivier Francois, Tim Kuniskis and Bob Broderdorf why they think the brand is struggling, and received some insightful answers in response.
Kuniskis, head of Fiat in North America, believes it’s all about foot traffic to the dealers – something that’s out of the dealers’ control. He noted that the majority of their dealers are doing a good job selling the cars, but it’s Fiat Chrysler’s responsibility to create levels of product awareness that will attract consumers to their local Fiat storefront.
“I don’t know that I need the dealers to do anything differently,” he told AN. “The dealers do a really good job. We need to bring traffic to the dealers.”
Kuniskis also believes the 500L is too similar of a product to the 500X, both in theory and price. This has resulted in the 500X robbing sales of the 500L and has also created some confusion among consumers as to how the two vehicles are different.
“The problem is, one plus one, L and X, didn’t equal two, because they’re priced right on top of each other, they’re contented on top of each other and they’re kind of competing with each other in the showroom,” Kuniskis said.
“Over time that will work itself out. It always does. But right now, the X is kind of stealing business from the L.”
Fiat has been impacted by low fuel prices across the globe as well, which has driven consumers into larger vehicles such as trucks and SUVs. Olivier Francois, global brand boss for Fiat, said Fiat is “just as impacted,” as other small car brands by the trend and can maybe remedy it by promoting sales of the larger 500X.
Broderdorf, Fiat’s brand director in North America, echoed Francois statements about pushing sales of the 500X, saying it’s something the dealers asked for prior to its release. He said the 500X “has pulled people from everywhere in Fiat that were interested. It’s pulled people from 500, it’s pulled people from L,” Broderdorf said. “The dealers have been excited. They’re pushing X. They’ve been asking for this.”