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Is The Fiat 500 A Failure Or Not?


William Maley
Editor/Reporter - CheersandGears.com
February 23, 2012

The Fiat 500. A car that was given an ambitious sales goal of 50,000 vehicles during its first year and missed by a long shot - only selling 17,945 vehicles between March and December of 2011. Everyone, including yours truly has said that's a failure. But, some new analysis from Polk says the 17,945 isn't really a failure.

Polk compared the 500 to other three-door subcompacts and found out the 500 captured 25.71% of the market. That puts it behind the Mini Copper, but well ahead the Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris.

Still, Polk points out that three-doors only make up 16% of the subcompact market.

Source: Polk
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28 Comments

Despite the absurd sales estimate from Fiat, it's still a bit early to call this a failure, I think.
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I agree with Camino. While the 500 has been around since March, it was severely limited... it wasn't until recently that it seems FIAT has gotten its shipments going, and considering the market, it won't take much of an increase in sales for it to be a segment leader.

Again, considering that I only saw 2 up until Feb... during Feb, I've seen them EVERYWHERE. I've lost count somewhere north of 50-60.
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I've probably seen a dozen or so around the Phoenix metro area..saw 2 Scion iQs yesterday, will be interesting to see how it's sales compare to the Fiat in a year...
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I have yet to see a Scion iQ in the NYC area.
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I have yet to see a Scion iQ in the NYC area.

I think it's only been out a short time..the ones yesterday were the first I'd seen.
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yeah, it has sold well considering the size of the car.
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I've still only seen 3 total, but this is an affluent area.
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I've still only seen 3 total, but this is an affluent area.


I've seen them in a fairly affluent/trendy area mostly (Scottsdale) and in the college town I work in now (Tempe).
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Doing pretty well in my part of Canada.. Tonnes of them every time I'm in the downtown Toronto area.
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Starting to pop up here as well...
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Considering how much inventory is sitting at the Fiat dealership in Kirkland Washington and has stayed that way since last year when it opened, I say they have a failure on their hands. The Owner of the dealership is right next door as a Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler and just last week, they pull all the fiats from the front line ad put auto's from those three brans out front since is appears Fiat is not moving. Dropped by to pick up my sister who was dropping on her 2006 Durango for service and in talking with sale person I met, a young man who said they have not sold one since early January. Most people come in and look at them and find something they like much better in th same price point in a dodge.

Very interesting I think.
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Yes it officially was available in March.. all three of them that actually shipped. I think they sold a very respectable amount for what is essentially a new brand in the US again, has a limited dealer network, and honestly didn't really get inventory moving in until about July.

So, let's call ~18k six months worth of sales or 36k a year. It's not 50k a year, but it is respectable for the first year of a niche car from a new brand.
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I've still only seen 3 total, but this is an affluent area.


And in perhaps another geo-demographical testimonial, I've seen 3 fiats.... and 4 panameras around here so far.
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Riding the bus home from work in Downtown Seattle, was passed by half a dozen Panameras, 3 of the GL500 SUV's AMG editions and a ton of BMW M3 and AMG 63. Course with all the Tech money in this area, more common for high end auto's than an entry level Fiat. Bellevue High School average car in the kids lot is a 325. :P
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I don't like Polk's implication that part of Fiat's problem is lack of a 4-door bodystyle. MINI has done swimmingly with the Cooper.

I'd like to examine a 500 up close for myself. I've seen a fair number of them in my neck of the woods.
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I think things wnill improve for Fiat when the 500L debuts. I think the 500L will be a good contender for Chrysler in the B class market.
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Up here their marketing campaign has been non-existent. Pretty much limited to a one inch picture of one in newspaper ads for Chrysler Dealers and a sign in front of Eastside Dodge that says "Welcome Fiat!". Maybe that has something to do with why I've only seen two on the streets ever.
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i dont think its a failure. i personnally would love to have the Abarth. its not bad looking for such a odd car.
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Marketing seems to be almost entirely word of mouth right now.
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When the Fiat dealer opened here, same owners as the Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep dealer, they spent over the next 30 days some serious cash with Newspaper ads, Television ads, etc and yet clearly this market is not interested in these coffins on wheels. Seems people would rather drive the Hybrid Coffin on wheels Prius compared to the Fiat version.

Maybe it is cause we are closer to Japan compared to the east coast being closer to Fiat's home territory.
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idk about you but i dont want to die in a Prius. i would actually prefer something more stylish like the fiat. and actually for a such a small car its crash ratings are actually very nice. you have the danger of it being such a small car but its over all crash rating is impressive. and starting at 15,000 with the top line being 22. price isnt bad either.
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I've still only seen 3 total, but this is an affluent area.


And in perhaps another geo-demographical testimonial, I've seen 3 fiats.... and 4 panameras around here so far.


Plenty of Panameras around here, and loads of Minis. It's that second bit that might not be such good news for Fiat.
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I think as a first entry back into the American market it did great. Since it is small and relatively inexpensive it set the expectation low and delivered. I haven't read any disparaging reviews at least. If a push is to come from fiat to expand a line of cars in America I feel they are in a good position to do so. They have done a sold job of getting Chrysler out of crisis and are improving on every level. The dodge dart seems like it will be a hit and the opens up an avenue even for Alfa to come back since it's built on the Juliana. I hear Maserati is expanding. With all the dealerships who lost brands over the past few years there is definitely room for Italian cars in America right now. Also good timing on the heels of the Jersey shore guido cultural renaissance.
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Jersey shore guido cultural renaissance :scared:
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I think as a first entry back into the American market it did great. Since it is small and relatively inexpensive it set the expectation low and delivered. I haven't read any disparaging reviews at least. If a push is to come from fiat to expand a line of cars in America I feel they are in a good position to do so. They have done a sold job of getting Chrysler out of crisis and are improving on every level. The dodge dart seems like it will be a hit and the opens up an avenue even for Alfa to come back since it's built on the Juliana. I hear Maserati is expanding. With all the dealerships who lost brands over the past few years there is definitely room for Italian cars in America right now. Also good timing on the heels of the Jersey shore guido cultural renaissance.


:lol2:
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