Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fiat Is Back On Sale In The U.S. - "Life is Best When Its Driven"

The Fiat brand is back on sale at 130 U.S. dealers with 3 editions of the 101 horsepower 1.4-liter Fiat 500 that took Europe by storm almost 4 years ago with sales growing to over 600,000 across the Atlantic. That said, the U.S. edition, made in Toluca, Mexico along side the Dodge Journey, replaces the PT Cruiser at that plant. Two railcars left last Friday for U.S. showrooms.

The Fiat 500 has been Americanized to accommodate larger people, longer distances, the automatic transmission preference, glovebox stowage needs, armrest desires, cupholder capacity and more.

Head of the Fiat Brand for North America, Laura Soave, raised Italian in Michigan, was asked what Fiat stands for and replied - "First In Advanced Technology." Today's "millennials", as she calls them, will have no idea of the "Fix It Again Tony" reputation of the '70's Fiats. The Fiat 500 buyers will have "no brand loyalty and just want something different", according to Soave. The base POP with manual transmission starts at $15,500, the SPORT at $17,500 and the upscale LOUNGE with a standard automatic transmission at $19,500. The Fiat 500 is an A-segment vehicle so technically its only competitor is the smart which has had plummeting sales, but Soave says the Toyota Yaris and Mini are the real rivals.

Personalization is the name of the game with 14 interior and exterior colors and about 500,000 ways to make your Fiat 500 special. A Cabrio will be arriving in April, the Abarth and BEV electric next year and a 4-door model in 2013. There are also plans for the Alfa Romeo to make a return to the U.S. market. "Fiat Freaks" who populate 50 clubs around the U.S. have been waiting 27 years for the return of the brand. Social media will be a big marketing channel for Soave and her team to hit the first year sales target of 45,000 units. Ciao for now.