Stellantis, Fiat & (RED)

Culture and addressing the needs of those who are at risk

By Gary S. Vasilash

The Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy, is probably known by people who aren’t automotive manufacturing aficionados because it is the plant with a test track on its roof. It opened in 1926 and closed as a factory in 1982. It was subsequently repurposed through the design of architect Renzo Piano and now stands as a multi-functional public space.

(Image: Stellantis)

Stellantis, the company that now owns Fiat, has opened a new museum dedicated to the Fiat 500, Casa 500, at Lingotto.

What’s more, the company has created La Pista 500, the largest roof garden in Europe: there are more than 40,000 plants on the 1.2-km track where cars like the 500 were once tested.

And coincident with those efforts, the company announced the launch of the New (500)RED , a trim model of the electric vehicle that s associated with (RED), the organization established in 2006 to initially fight AIDS, but which has subsequently expanded its efforts to other diseases.

Bono, a co-founder of (RED), said of the announcement, “This partnership with FIAT, Jeep and RAM is a powerful shot in the arm for (RED)’s fight against pandemics and the complacency that fuels them. It’s hard to believe that 15 years on from (RED)’s founding we are now fighting another tiny virus … but it’s even harder to see the virus of injustice that marked the AIDS pandemic is alive and well during COVID. Less than 5 percent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, while vaccines are plentiful in Europe and America. We have to do more and fast to support the hundreds of millions of people who don’t yet have access to the vaccines, therapeutics or sufficient PPE. Because unless this pandemic is defeated everywhere, no one will be safe anywhere.”

FIAT, Jeep and RAM are committing a minimum of $4 million, between 2021 and 2023, to (RED).

Fiat’s Fortunes

Although 2020 sales will be reported next week—numbers that will probably down 10%-ish—a look at Fiat brand sales in the U.S. for the first three quarters of 2020 are such that it would take a proverbial Christmas miracle to have any effect on what is truly a dismal year for the Italian marque.

For the first nine months of the year, there were 3,569 Fiat vehicles sold in the U.S.

That is the total. For nine months. 3,569.

And that number is shared by four vehicles, the 500, 500L, 500X and Spider.

Compared to the same period in 2019, 3,569 is a decrease of 52%.

That’s right: more than half the sales of the brand: poof!

The vehicle that brought the brand back to the U.S. market when the 2012 model year was launched, the 500, is down 74% for the first three quarters. 662 were sold.

That decline is greater than any of the other three, though there wasn’t good news for any of them:

  • 500L:            -35%
  • 500X:           -46%
  • Spider:         -37%

So let’s say you’re in Fiat planning. Which vehicle(s) do you keep?

(Image: FCA)

Based on the fact that the company has released pricing for just one of the four, odds are there is one that will remain.

Because you are clever, you’ve seen the picture and know the answer: the 500X.

Presumably the logic is:

  • The decline in 500 sales is absolutely unrecoverable
  • The 500L is essentially a compact sedan that isn’t at all class competitive
  • The Spider is a sports car that doesn’t tend to move the needle for mainstream brands (although it is interesting to note that the Spider shares a platform with the Mazda MX-5 Miata and for the first three quarters of 2020 there were 7,503 Miatas sold—more than double the number of all Fiats sold in the same period)
  • The 500X is considered a crossover

Yes, that’s what matters.

Crossovers, presumably, have a future. Too bad there isn’t a 500 pickup.

In bocca al lupo. (Good luck)