To paraphrase Paul Revere, The Fiats are coming, the Fiats are coming!
But while that’s undoubtedly the case, for many, if not most of the 500 souls who plunked down $500 deposits for a limited edition Prima Edizione model of the tiny Fiat 500, the question is, when?
In December, Fiat North America head Laura Soave told Prima buyers, "Delivery should occur in mid to late February…In the meantime, dealers are busy putting the finishing touches on our Studios."
Less true words seldom have been spoken…
As we head into April less than 20 Fiat Studios out of a planned 130 are up and running.
And fewer than half – perhaps way fewer – Prima Edizione cars have found their way into the hands of the Fiat faithful. Who by the way range from pissed off to bemused to grief stricken. Judging, that is, by their shared online reactions to the confusion surrounding the whereabouts and delivery of the numbered edition cars.
Take the situation here in Kansas City….
On March 5th Omaha resident Vladimir Liska wrote that the dealer "called me around 6:30 PM. Stated eight of our cars are at the rail yard in KC. Waiting to be released pending the arrival of the window stickers and the delivery tarp which has not cleared customs. Said he will call Monday with VIN and estimated date we can get our cars. He thought it might be by the end of next week. He did say only 8 of the 10 cars are there. The other two were slated for home delivery from the start. He was not sure what happened this those. So hang in there… Our wait is almost over!"
Au contraire. Three weeks later Liska is still waiting.
The good news; Vlad’s car, No. 92 of 500, is at the local railhead in Muncie, Kansas where it’s accruing storage fees of around $25 per day. But since the local Fiat dealer isn’t expected to open until May, its sister store in Shreveport, La. is handling the paperwork and delivery of the KC area cars. To that end Shreveport is arranging to have Vlad’s Fiat trucked to his residence and delivered by its salesmen Mohammed, an Egyptian, who will be flying in from the deep south.
So Fiat is sending an Egyptian from Louisiana to Nebraska to deliver an Italian
car built in Mexico to a Czech and his Australian wife.
Believe it or not, that’s one of the less convoluted Prima deliveries of the ones described online.
Mine, for example, I was told, arrived in Muncie with Vlad’s three weeks back. However, turns out that it went to in Centreville, Illinois and is soon to be shipped to somewhere in Ohio. The Shreveport Fiat dealer tells me that once the car "is released" by Fiat it generally takes another 17 to 19 days for delivery. Which will go down in Olathe, probably with the Egyptian dude. After which my trade in will be trucked back to Louisiana.
Fiat buyer Joe Dolgetta posts that Fiat told him his Prima was being shipped to "Team Hyundai Mall of GA," an AutoNation dealership. But the guys at Team Hyundai told him they wouldn’t be able to handle any Fiat sales or deliveries until they got their state licence to sell Fiats in May.
"When I reported all of this back to FIAT USA, they asked me if I wanted the car shipped to another dealer, but that it would first have to be sent to the Hyundai Dealership before it can be trucked to another dealership of my choice," Dolgetta says. "So, if I wanted to avoid taking delivery from a bunch of Hyundai boys who don’t even know what a Fiat 500 looks like – and could care less – I would first have to wait for it to be dropped off at the Hyundai dealership so that these Hyundai boys can take a few joy rides in it, then be put on a truck to be shipped to another almost ready, soon to be Fiat Studio some 400 miles way in North Carolina. Or perhaps the dealer in Sarasota? Again, what a way to start off with the New Fiat experience."
Prima buyer Fred Frey says: "Several of us have called FIAT and pressed them for tracking info. They respond that they will call back… then do not. As nice as they are at the call center they seem to only be there to placate callers. They have no details, tracking info or any real ability to help it seems. Thanks to (Fiat dealer) Paul I’ve learned my #23 will eventually be on the way to New Jersey when it is supposed to be delivered to the West Coast of Florida."
So on it goes, the mysteries slowly unfolding after a 28 year dry spell for Fiat in North America. Only this much seems certain, Fiat of Olathe is slated to open for business on May 6th and will then begin selling and taking orders for the critically acclaimed 500.
As for Vlad, Dolgetta, the nine other KC area Prima buyers – including me – well, we’ll live.