One of these days, Kansas Citians will be able to walk into Fiat of Olathe, sign on the dotted line and drive off in one of the most critically-acclaimed, eco-friendly small cars ever…
But don’t even think about entertaining that fantasy for another month. Not where the launch of the acclaimed new Fiat 500 is concerned. Clearly Fiat fucked up. To start with, the company didn’t select it’s dealers until mid-late November right before the holidays. No way those dealers could complete the paperwork, build studios to Fiat’s specs and be ready to do biz by the first of the year, as Fiat suggested.
Kansas City’s dealer, for example, is still at the mercy of its Shreveport sister to deliver 10 Prima Ediziones to area buyers.
"Very frustrating!" says Vladimir Liska of Omaha. "I was reading on Facebook some guy just hit 1,000 miles on his Prima… (Mine) better show up at the dealer on Tuesday!"
After a six month wait, Liska’s car hit town a month ago and’s been accruing storage fees of $25 per day at a railhead since.
That while Fiat and its dealers here and in Louisiana sort out the many unexplainable wheres and why-fors of delivering Vlad’s car others built last January.
First Fiat said that 500s would show in January, then February, then March. Now in April, they’re ricochetting about the country to parts unknown, while confused buyers bunker in a Fiat-enforced cone-of-silence and uncertainty.
"Why won’t the dealers just level with us?" groused Fiat Prima buyer Jim last week on the popular Fiat 500 USA blog site. "I know they are at the mercy of the system but that is no excuse for the lack of communication."
"Because most dealers are clueless?," shot back Prima buyer Kmarei. "You wanna hear more? My dealer has had his license since early March and my car has been delivered to Jessup MD – less than 1 hour away from dealer – since the 23rd (of March), but my dealer is powerless to get the car.
"It’s more of a "it will come when it comes" attitude – It’s a total joke. I called the manager yesterday and he said, Well we’re sorry it’s a new brand blah, blah, blah. I told him no, it’s not – you are using the same system as Chrysler; you build them in the same factory, use the same moving services, and you have the same tracking info as Chrysler. So this is basically someone not doing his job, and management is powerless to stop this.
"My dealer knows nothing. Fiat help line knows nothing. And even the Fiat rep knows nothing. They all say it should get there any day now. There is no such thing as any day now. If I send a package, or even a container, anything –
any shipping company can tell me exactly where my box/container/parcel is. Heck, even USPS can do that."
"I had to beg Power Fiat of Torrance to send me a buyers order," posts Fiat buyer Guido. "I called over 20 times and they finally agreed to do it. I just got it in my inbox to take down to the credit union to get the check. Car’s been in Denver for 3 weeks just sitting! They wanted to wait until April 4th to do the paperwork. They’ve had their license for over 2 weeks. Just shuffling their feet. I’ve never had to beg a dealer to sell me a car!!!!"
"I really don’t blame the dealer for any of this…this STUFF," posts Prima buyer Seadawg. "Should have been anticipated and dealt with at a much higher level BEFORE it ever got to this point where we, prospective customers, are getting annoyed, nay, ANGRY about all the delays etc. and even considering alternative brands (not me)."
The bottom line: future Fiat 500 buyers will likely never know the extent of Fiat’s screw up.
However, as car launches go, the 500’s pales alongside that of BMW’s Mini years ago. Reminds more of when Jeep and AMC tried to fold Renaults into their mix. Didn’t take long for Renault to vanish from North America. So will Fiat get its act together? That jury is still out.
Lucky for Fiat, everybody seems to love the car itself…so far.