Car: Ford’s Mulally Cheap Shots Fiat; Lawrence

At first blush, it doesn’t make much sense…

Why would Ford CEO Alan Mulally – poised to break the auto industry compensation record of $73 million – diss the critically acclaimed new Fiat 500? Before it goes on sale no less.

Yet there the sandy-haired, former Lawrence resident is on AutoGuide.com bagging on the Italian micro stallion. Under a headline that reads, "Fiat 500 Will Fail, Says Ford CEO Alan Mulally."

"For all the hype surrounding the Fiat 500, Ford‘s CEO, Alan Mulally, has become one of its most prominent detractors, condemning the car to failure before it’s even launched," the story begins. "Speaking to the Italian language magazine Panorama, Mulally remarked ‘I do not see large market in the U.S.A. for a smaller car than the Fiesta. Those that tried failed.’ "

Harsh, huh?

"While Mulally declined to comment further, it’s not unreasonable to expect such comments coming from the head of a rival firm. Not to mention, the smart fortwo has enjoyed dismal success in America, with sales dropping to a fifth of their highest levels in 2008."

Hold it right there…

Comparing golf cart-like, two-seat smarts to four passenger Fiat 500s getting nearly the same mileage is a reach.

Outside of the plainer, less-expensive Ford Fiesta, Mulally really doesn’t have much of a dog in this mini car dogfight. BMW‘s Mini Cooper wieghing in at $4,000 to $6,000 more for similarly-equipped cars is where the fur most likely will fly.

Besides, why bother?

Mulally’s got far bigger worries with Ford’s new Explorer.

While the Explorer is off to an excellent sales start, Car and Driver magazine averaged an embarrassing 18 miles-per-gallon with the new SUV,  just 2 mpgs more than its predecessor.

That’s not likely to cut it in a $4 per gallon world.

Not when the 500 is pulling down between 30 and 38 mpgs with reports it may deliver real world mileage in the 40s.

So it kinda does make sense for Mulally to be a little resentful. Cause outside of the Cooper crowd, for the 500 to wildly succeed, the new Explorer needs to be a bust.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, has to be more than a little unnerving.

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18 Responses to Car: Ford’s Mulally Cheap Shots Fiat; Lawrence

  1. Rogger says:

    Wildly Succeed…
    With barely 100HP,and rear seating for elfs only, this little Italian Yugo from the Dodge store is hardly a serious concern for the CEO of Ford, regardless of what the new Explorer does or doesn’t do.
    What a stretch of the imagination!
    Every manufacturer has a vehicle that will approach your gold standard, wished-for 40mpg range! They’ve all been there and done that quite well. The list of qualifiers is a mile long.
    Mulally has more automotive savvy in his earwax than the entire Dodge/Fiat division could muster on their best day. Instead of trying to defray his comments with weak logic; maybe you should wake up and smell the pasta….it’s burning.

  2. TIAD says:

    This Fiat 500 May Seat Four…
    This Fiat 500 may seat four, but two of ’em would be Fat Tony in the back seat and the other two would be Jr.’s big head/ego in the front.

  3. Hearne says:

    Boys, boys…
    Elfs ih the backseat? Try 6’3″ me behind my girlfriend driving it. It’s got two more inches of rear legroom than the Cooper. Spacious it’s not, but there’s a lot more room in this puppy than you’re giving it credit for. You know, a little firsthand knowledge can go a long way.

  4. shecky says:

    How is that a cheap shot?
    He comments that he thinks it will fail in the US because it’s too small. He may be wrong, you may disagree….but how can that opinion be construed as a ‘cheap shot? That’s weird, Hearne.

  5. Rogger says:

    Yes, Elfs and Small Gnomes!
    If a 6’3″ human even tried to sit in the back seat of a Dodge/Fiat, his head and neck would be permanently injured within fifteen miles or fifteen minutes. There is no headroom due to the “studio” design work of your Milano spaghetti bender heroes. Better make an appointment to have your cervical/thoracic regions thoroughly evaluated before even making the attempt.
    The back seat will barely hold two sacks of groceries and a six pack of Red Bull, let alone a full-grown homo sapien.

    I’m starting to get the vague impression that our boy has had a nasty experience at the Mini dealership, and still has a burr in his saddle over whatever slight he suffered there at the hands of genuine automotive counselors.
    I think he’s more comfortable buying from a guy named Bubba or Rocky, in a NASCAR ball cap who just sold a one-ton diesel dually with a fifth wheel mount and sixty gallon auxilliary fuel tanks!

  6. Hearne Christopher says:

    Au contraire. The MINI people here in KC are excellent. And I’ve built about a million of ’em online and have come about very close to buying one. The Fiat came up last September and was a crime of passion and a gamble. Sight unseen, features unknown. But fully refundable deposit.

    In the ensuing months – once the specs of the 500 became known – I built and compared many more Mini Coopers and guess what? To build the same Cooper as the fully equipped 500 Sport it costs $6,000 more. Oh sure, you get a few extra things like push button start and the premium sound system is probably higher quality but that’s $6,000, Mr. Rogger.

    Plus it’s kinda a been there done that car at this point, where the 500 is brand new and exciting. Just like the Cooper was, what, 8 or so years ago. Say what you will, there’s two inches more legroom (but less headroom) in the 500 and this 6’3″ human was quite comfortable. Which wouldn’t have been the case had another 6′ human been in the seat in front of me. But my girlfriend is only 5’1″.

  7. Hearne Christopher says:

    Fair enough, shecky. Here’s my response.

    Out of the clear blue sky the head of Ford disses a car that hundreds of thousands have been sold worldwide, that’s won award after award for styling and engineering, that gets excellent gas mileage at a time when gas prices are on the rise and that has been acclaimed pretty much across by the automotive press in this country.

    Right before the car goes goes on sale. In the manufacturer’s home country (Italy) no less, he predicts the car will fail.

    What would you call it if Roy Williams told the Lawrence Journal World that the KU basketball program’s best days were behind it, that the program was washed up?

    It’s not that I disagree – a lot could happen. The Fiat quality could be horrendous. New competition could eat its lunch. Gas prices could plummet. Clearly big-bottomed Americans have demonstrated that if they can get away with driving gas hogs like the new Explorer, everything else be damned.

    Just weird for someone in Mulally’s position to take such a controversial shot like that.

  8. shecky says:

    “a controversial shot”???
    His comments may be strange but I still don’t see how an objective person could view them as a “controversial shot” or a diss. It seems rather matter of fact to me – he doesn’t think that type of car (regardless of popularity elsewhere) will sell in the US. I think historical evidence is likely on his side, which would make his comments closer to “predictable” or “obvious” than “controversial”.

    You like the car and don’t want to hear anyone say anything about it that’s not glowing. Simple as that.

    And the KU analogy isn’t even close to the same thing. Surely you an see that, right?

  9. Kyle Rohde says:

    Hearne, drop the car talk…
    Hearne, I know you’re excited about cars momentarily because you’re buying a 500 from the dealer in Olathe, but you need to stop writing columns about the auto biz. There are a great deal of sources out there (Jalopnik, Autoblog, Truth about Cars, AutoExtremist, etc.) covering it front to back and I’m not sure what you single-handedly trying to promote the 500 in KC is accomplishing .

    The 500 might succeed because it is a damn good product. However, everything around it is not going well – Chrysler/Fiat is way, way behind their own calendar for getting dealerships set up and hoping Chrysler/Dodge dealers are well-equipped to sell a car like this is a tough bet. This isn’t a car to be seen on a crappy TV spot with “No money down, $2,000 cash back!” flashing across the screen or in the Star’s auto section on Saturday. It’s a premium car that I think works much better being sold at a dealer like Baron than Olathe Dodge. Fiat’s main reputation in the US is the “Fix it again Tony” mentality, while when Mini launched, it really didn’t have a reputation here.

    Finally, when the Mini Cooper launched, small cars in the US were still pretty crappy. In the ten years since, we now have really, really good small cars like the Fiesta, Fit, Versa, Cruze, Elantra, etc. The market is way, way more competitive than it was then, when Mini launched their brand.

    I’m curious to see how it sells and hope it does well. Again, I think it’s a fabulous product…but it takes more than that to sell cars.

  10. Rogger says:

    Six Three/ Five One
    Hearne said:
    “and this 6’3″ human was quite comfortable. Which wouldn’t have been the case had another 6′ human been in the seat in front of me. But my girlfriend is only 5’1″.”

    Oh boy….sounds like another famous KC couple…..you know…..Funk and Gloria. Sure hope not.

    On top of everything else, this FIAT 500 looks like a sawed-off AMC Gremlin. Of course, that’s a limited edition, special production, guaranteed collector model, Gremlin.

  11. Cliffy says:

    (Yawn)
    Are we talking about this insignicant little POS car again?

  12. Hearne Christopher says:

    We? Guess so. Glad to have you aboard!

  13. Hearne Christopher says:

    Have you thought about maybe looking into some sort of car counseling therapy? Or are you already taking something for it? May wanna consider upping the dose.

  14. Hearne Christopher says:

    I’ve got a lot more car talk for you than the 500, but it’s hot right now because it’s launching here for the first time in more than 27 years. The Mini sold around 40,000 cars last year – the most ever, I believe.

    I’ve been writing about cars for years at the Star and elsewhere btw.

    This car is really a different beast – by far – that the Fit, Cruze, Fiesta, etc. It does compete with them somewhat on price and mileage. But it’s not even close on options and cache, hence the tendency of writers to pit it against the Cooper.

    And if you’d read a little closer, you might have noticed that it will not be sold by Olathe Dodge. A Fiat of Olathe Studio is under construction as we speak.

  15. Hearne says:

    What I’m really dying to do is
    Take Jolly Rogger for a ride in the 500 and show him one can have a good driving adventure without losing bladder control

  16. Kyle Rohde says:

    Hearne – I understand they’re building this “studio” for the car but it’s still connected to a regular ol’ domestic dealer right? That’s all I meant – hard to complete change the way those dealers do business when they’ve only got one model to sell under that brand. Mini’s had the BMW connection, which is a helluva lot better than a Chrysler one.

    To say it’s completely different than cars like the Fiesta in terms of options/cache is a stretch – those cars are all coming with up-market features too as the automakers try to make us more European in terms of what we buy. I’d say again that Fiat has little recognition in the mainstream audience here and the people that do know it probably don’t remember it fondly.

    And again, I like the car a lot, I do. But the delays and connection with Chrysler don’t inspire a lot of confidence for me.

  17. Kyle Rohde says:

    Hearne – I understand they’re building this “studio” for the car but it’s still connected to a regular ol’ domestic dealer right? That’s all I meant – hard to complete change the way those dealers do business when they’ve only got one model to sell under that brand. Mini’s had the BMW connection, which is a helluva lot better than a Chrysler one.

    To say it’s completely different than cars like the Fiesta in terms of options/cache is a stretch – those cars are all coming with up-market features too as the automakers try to make us more European in terms of what we buy. I’d say again that Fiat has little recognition in the mainstream audience here and the people that do know it probably don’t remember it fondly.

    And again, I like the car a lot, I do. But the delays and connection with Chrysler don’t inspire a lot of confidence for me.

  18. Rogger says:

    Bladder Control
    Oh yeah! I’m sure when you unleash all 101 horsepower of that Dodge/Fiat/Yugo/Gremlin, heads turn and pulses quicken! Kinda like watching a turtle in overdrive!
    I found a guy with a Smart Car who wants to run the quarter mile with you for pink slips the first Wednesday night they have grudge racing at the drag strip.
    We’ll need to block out around five minutes for you guys to complete your ET’s. That’s elapsed times, not space aliens. Bring your helmet.

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