On average, Fiat dealers have only been selling about 17 cars a month.

We've been wondering for some time how Fiat dealers in North America have been getting along with just one model range in their showrooms up until recently. Franchisees spent millions building, stocking and manning sleek new 'studio' showrooms, only to have but a single model to sell, the cherubic 500. And even with its many derivatives, the Cinquecento is still an inexpensive model with its attendant lower margins. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then, that just 45 percent of US Fiat dealers are said to be profitable.

The tide was supposed to begin to change with the introduction of the 2014 500L, a bigger model that plays in a larger-volume segment, but Automotive News reports that dealers aren't seeing much of an uptick in sales, and they are fuming. Fiat's volume declined a whopping 24 percent in September, meaning that sales are about the same as they were through this time last year – under 33,000 units. It's still too early to tell how the 500L is doing – last month, the five-seater sold 1,031 units, with advertising and customer awareness still getting up to speed since the model's June launch. The shortfall, then, can be mostly blamed on sales of the standard 500 range cooling.
Fiat's dealer network didn't exactly get off the ground in a hurry – it was plagued with fits and starts, encountering everything from construction permit issues to ineffective marketing and delayed product. Things have settled down and the 500 has now been selling well against its Mini Cooper arch rival, yet on average, Fiat dealers have only been selling about 17 cars a month. Chrysler Group dealers average 64 units, with much of that credited to the strength of fuller lineups and more inventory. Interestingly, however, Fiat sales are similar to what boss Sergio Marchionne has been saying they would be – Automotive News notes that back in 2010, the serially besweatered exec predicted sales of around 50,000 units per year in North America, and the US alone is trending at about 44,000 vehicles.

Dealers are eager for new product, and have been expecting Alfa Romeo to figure in prominently, with the brand's relaunch in the US expected to arrive with the 2015 4C sportscar. Recent reports suggest that the upscale two-seat coupe will instead be sold in Maserati stores, further damaging goodwill between dealers and Fiat-Chrysler. There's still a possibility that Fiat dealers will also get the car, but with just 1,200 units earmarked for our market, that would be spreading them pretty thin on the ground. Either way, Alfa Romeo's planned return to the US has been delayed many times, and its return roadmap is not yet clear, a fact that can't be sitting well with Fiat dealers.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Needs more Gorilla on the dealership roof...
      • 1 Year Ago
      wait so fiat's only been back 2 model years and dealers are upset they're not profitable yet? give me a break
        • 1 Year Ago
        This. They've been back two years and are selling to plan. If the dealers aren't making the profits they wanted, they didn't do the math up front.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Because Fiat was supposed to bring mode cars and they did not. One model is not enough to survive.
      • 1 Year Ago
      In my neck of the woods it seems to be a brand awareness thing. My wife recently purchased a 500L Trekking and she is constantly stopped by people asking what it is. All have expressed enthusiasm for the car (not just being polite). When it is parked, people come up to it and look it up and down. The amount of attention the L gets has been equivalent to when we use to cruise in our Porsche 356. FIAT has a done a great job with this car and I am confident car enthusiasts and soccer moms alike will choose this car over the typical appliance. Chrysler needs to pony up more advertising $$$ and gain more market exposure. The buying experience was also first rate at my dealership and this needs to be consistent across the country.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Actually, compared historically to Mini, they are doing quite well. Mini Cooper sales didn't reach 40,000 units until their fourth year in production, and they still only barely break 60,000 units even with multiple models. Fiat reached 40,000 units their second year with one car. They just need to be patient and expand their brand. I think their expectations were a little high, especially in one of the most competitive markets in the world. One problem is that the 500L is ugly as hell and is getting no advertising. They need a B/C small hatch or sedan.
      • 1 Year Ago
      This isn't terribly surprising. First off, building an entire dealership just to sell a single vehicle model is a bad idea-people like choice, and most people have a variety of different needs that may or may not be satisfied by just one car. Successful dealerships have a variety of models to choose from most of the time. Second, the move to make Fiat a stand alone brand may make it more attractive to import buyers, (as opposed to tying it with Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/Ram) but also means that, again, the dealer must stay profitable selling just one flavor of car. Third, the flavor of car the company is selling is polarizing and a relatively small niche that's already been mostly taken with Mini and SMART. Mini is established, SMART is established, Fiat is not. Mini is a well-respected brand of small car with an established reputation, Fiat is not (yet). All of these things combine to form a brand of niche cars trying to stay afloat on a small model base, with strong, well-established competitors in the niche they're fighting for.
      • 1 Year Ago
      This isn't hard to understand. Their key demographic is largely unemployed, and not in the position to buy new.
      Benjamin Roethig
      • 1 Year Ago
      they could have known there was basically no A-segment going in and that is a niche product. Euro-type cars are the exception in North America, not the rule.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Benjamin Roethig
        It's not that simple. Mini had zero brand recognition in the US but they had waiting lists for years and are still selling well. But having BMW as a parent gave it an upscale brand image and having Minis parked next to a lot full of $50K plus cars didn't hurt. Fiat 500s are parked next to a lot full of Dodge Ram trucks and the Chrysler sales people don't know how to sell the cars or deal with those "weird" foreign car buyers.
          • 1 Year Ago
          Europeans would call you a 'dumb' American with that last line.
      Cool Disco Dan
      • 1 Year Ago
      These places look lavish and had to cost a lot of coin but then they only sell 1 and now 2 cars. That will never work. Until more offerings arrive the niche is to small to be profitable.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I would bet more sales would have occurred if Fiat wasn't a "stand alone" dealership. The original thought was they would be sold alongside with Chrysler's.
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      They should have just sold the Fiats out of Chrysler dealerships rather than setting up a new dealer network.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think this Sergio bashing has got to stop. First it was the overweight underpowered Dart, then it was the looks and delays of the Cherokee, then it was the promised but never delivered diesel in the Grand Cherokee. Now it the lack of Fiat 500 sales. Just leave this guy alone already.
        • 1 Year Ago
        He has taken some heat, but turning a semi-premium Alfa Romeo and turning it into a dodge while also promising to bring Alfa over to the US is just laughable. What's his plan? To bring the 4C to the US by itself? It'll be a 1 model problem just like Fiat. He deserves criticism on that front. But he's been amazing for Maserati
      Dana Lacoste
      • 1 Year Ago
      I recently bought a Fiat 500e (and I love it, so far!) and so I feel "qualified" to comment here: 1 - The deals that Chrysler Finance is making are insane: they MUST be cutting into dealer margins! 2 - Alfa Romeo is great, and the 4c is beautiful, and does NOT belong in a Fiat dealership. Taking a quick look at http://www.alfaromeo.it/it/#/modelli/gamma though and the 159 and the giulietta are "it" for things which could be added to an existing Fiat dealership. The Mito is too much a competitor to the 500, after all. I would DEFINITELY have been interested in a giulietta (I wanted one when I bought my previous car, but it's STILL not available in the US, Dodge Dart II be damned). The new spider (co-developed with the miata) would be a MUCH better fit for these dealers! 3 - Fiat http://www.fiat.it/it/modelli has a few models, but none are "ready for the US market". I think the freemont, qubo, and doblo would "work" but the rest seem to cut into the 500 market. I feel for the Fiat dealers, I really do, but I truly don't see what Chrysler can do for them that will "help". The LAST thing they need is to have more re-badged Chryslers!
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