When Fiat pronounced that it was planning to sell 50,000 Fiat 500 models in 2011, we were more than a little skeptical. And now that 2011 is in the rear view mirror, it seems CEO Sergio Marchionne is ready to admit that the sales target was not very realistic.

CNN Money reports that the charismatic Fiat/Chrysler boss is now calling the 50,000 number "incredibly naive," adding that the goal was to best Mini Cooper's 2010 sales total of 45,644. Fiat only managed to sell 19,769 Cinquecento models for the year.

Given that Mini has been in the U.S. for a decade and the marque already has an established dealer body and marketing presence – as well as an entire range of products – critics have said that clear that Fiat's 50,000-unit first-year goal was ambitious to a fault. Marchionne went on to add "we set ourselves up for a fall," but the chief executive insists that the future of Fiat in the U.S. is still very strong.

Even though sales of the 500 came nowhere near 50,000 units, Marchionne says that the Mexico plant that builds the A-segment ride is still profitable. That's because the plant also builds models for South America and China. Marchionne is reportedly hoping to sell between 25,000 and 30,000 copies of the 500 in the U.S. in 2012. While the 500 will likely be the only Fiat-branded model available in U.S. showrooms in 2012, the lineup is at least set to expand with models like the $22,000 high-performance 500 Abarth.


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  • 86 Comments
      Max Power
      • 2 Years Ago
      Also add to the fact that the dealer body was not really ramped up until April and advertisements did not start until the summer, 50,000 was truly insane. Plus, rather than comparing itself to MINI in 2010, how about wanting to best their first 2002 year where they faced the same issues of building a relatively unknown (to the US) brand and starting a dealer network. If I recall correctly, MINI sold about 20,000 cars as well (if that much). My father bought a very base 500 and not only does he love it, but I am impressed as well as a former MINI owner (I had a 2003 Cooper S)
        reattadudes
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Max Power
        Max, it's great to hear a voice of sanity here, and you're exactly right. FIAT insisted that dealers have their permanent FIAT facility completed before they received any cars. they did not allow FIATs to be sold from temporary facilities; the permanent building had to be completed. less than half of the dealers were open by June. it's really difficult to sell cars when the dealers aren't even open. the FIAT dealer I bought my second FIAT from (I bought the first one in California, as there were no dealers open here in Arizona then), FIAT of Scottsdale, didn't open until October. I certainly understand your father's enthusiasm. I bought my first 500 last summer (and gave it to a friend in November) and bought another one. as I've mentioned before, it shares garage space with seven other cars, including a 2010 Viper convertible, two Cadillacs, two Buicks, and two pickups. I've put battery tenders on all the others, because I drive the 500 over 90% of the time. it puts a smile on my face every day I drive it.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Phontsolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      19,769 to me is an acceptable number considering they haven't even been on sale for a full year. 50,000 was WAY to optimistic. I like the 500 and can't wait for the Abarth but to think they could out sell Mini after being in the US market for so long was just dumb.
        lasertekk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Phontsolo
        Nine months actually. The first dealer, as in, the one and only dealer, didn't open until late March.
        gary
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Phontsolo
        How many of the 19k were retail sales and how many were fleet sales? I've actually seen 500's on rental lots. I can't imagine that was part of the original plan. Those rental cars will be back on the retail market this coming year, cannibalizing sales of new 500s. That may result in pressure for FIAT to turn to fleet sales again in order to make the target number. It can easily become a death spiral for the perceived value of the product. I don't dislike the 500. I drove one and was reasonably impressed. It's a way better car than the not-so-SMART and has more character than most of the Japanese B-segment entries. It's not as appealing to me as a MINI, but it is priced accordingly. I just think the launch was so mishandled that it threatens to undermine the entire FIAT strategy for re-entering the US market.
      4RR4Y
      • 2 Years Ago
      Fiat's re-introduction into the U.S. market was handled quite poorly, and as such, the 500 suffered.
      tipdrip215
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well even the best CEOs make mistakes every now and then. Sergio is no exception, and he's still a very smart man.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      Did he appologize to laura Soave for making her the fall guy?
        reattadudes
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        he didn't need to. it was Soave that gave the 50K number on her own, not Marchionne.
      NipponEngine
      • 2 Years Ago
      yeah i think they really need to market the car more than the image. lesson learned, hopefully. maybe they will do well with this rumored 4 door?
      vsstars
      • 2 Years Ago
      @cashsixeight : by cons, I can prove that Bmw-Mini Group uses Fiat technologies 'n solutions about diesel engines and not only
      2o6
      • 2 Years Ago
      Althought 50K is far too high, 20K is a really good number for this type of car.
      jasonmorris1809
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sell them at Chrysler dealers and they might have a chance to hit the goal...
      donnieorama
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm filing this one under 'DUR!'
      Victor W. Werke
      • 2 Years Ago
      I guess the classic CEO 'Mind control of the Masses' trick didn't work on the intended audience this time! As they say, You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time....... Naive? No, I wager a more accurate description of such a sales projection as being delusional, hubristic and utterly insane! Wonderful car, impressive company, clueless management, abysmal marketing!
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