I was very excited that my 500e arrived at my dealer ... but that quickly turned to disappointment and anger when the dealer placed the lease papers in front of me. Months ago I put a deposit on the base model (orange on white with no sunroof or sport package) and asked for the $199 lease but the dealer said it was $263.50! Adding tax to the $199 lease gets it to $216.16 but this was $47.34 higher. I took issue with this and the dealer used their usual misleading monthly payment language 'it's only $47 more' to which I replied but that's an outrageous 22 percent increase – that's the same as jacking the price of the car from $33,000 to $40,000!
If you look at the fine print on the official Fiat deal, it does say that the $199 price "requires dealer contribution." Trent continued, "Of course they refused to make that contribution saying that 'the car is sold out and I have a waiting list, so you want it or not?' I'm pretty sure that no dealers are 'contributing' so no one can get the $199 price so it is a lie and false advertising."
"The $199 price is a lie and false advertising" - 500e customer Trent
Of course, we have no way of knowing if this story is true, but things seem to check out. Trent let other 500e owners and fans know about the situation and it appears there are plenty of others with similar tales. According to Lease Guide, A "dealer contribution" means that "the dealer give[s] up some (or most) of their potential profit to help promote sales and move cars off the sales lot." Ariel Gavilan, Fiat North America's head of communications, told AutoblogGreen that he does not know how much the dealer contribution to get the 500e lease down to $199 a month would be, just that Fiat sets the MSRP and then dealers are free to set their own price. In the case of the 500e, Gavilan admitted that "demand is incredible."
There is a chance that this imbalance will be fixed in the future. While not committing to anything, Gavilan did confirm to AutoblogGreen that increasing supply is "something we might eventually consider," and that he wouldn't be surprised if it's going on now.
*UPDATE: Plug In Cars has some more information, including that Fiat is offering dealers $1,500 for each 500e they sell, and that the $199 lease price point requires the dealer to pass this money along to the buyer.