Car: The Myth of Fiat’s Slow Start & Possible Sex Scandal

This just in, the sky is not falling on the new Fiat 500...

"Fiat’s U.S. chief ousted after poor Fiat 500 sales start," reads the Nov. 21 USA Today headline.

Unfortunately, as often is the case, the reporting on Fiat’s slower than hoped for re-entry into the North American market has been accompanied with precious little perspective. With more than 20,000 Fiat 500 sales in the US and Canada, there’s no arguing it will not achieve its overly-optimistic goal of selling 50,000 units this year.

Now let’s put that and the controversial ouster of Fiat ‘s North American head Laura Soave in perspective.

To start with, it was barely one year ago that Fiat even selected its first 130 dealers. Not much more than a week before Thanksgiving and directly into the headwinds of the holiday season. No way, given that late start and the requirement that dealers build freestanding Fiat Studios, could Fiat achieve that stated sales goal.

The first token Fiat wasn’t delivered until March and it was April before the cars first trickled into KC.

Heading into the summer only a fraction of the Fiat dealers were open for business and it wasn’t until mid-late summer that Fiat’s dealer network began to hit critical mass. It’s hard to sell cars with no dealers, especially in today’s economy and when targeting the denizens of the Occupy Wall Street Generation.

Now let’s do a bit of comparing what Herman Cain likes to refer to as "apples and oranges."

Many in the media point to the success of the Mini Cooper, the Fiat 500s main rival here.

However, they do so while providing absolutely zero perspective on the Mini’s return to this country. One that began 10 years ago – a decade – in the year 2001 when the economy was far stronger. The cars were first sold out of BMW dealerships who jammed the Minis in alongside Bimmers with no requirements that dealers invest millions in new facilities.

So how did the Mini’s launch compare to that of the 500?

When Mini tipped off in March of 2002 it did so with a modest-but-realistic sales target of 20,000 units.

That’s fewer than half the target Fiat foolishly set for the 500 this year. And after 13 months it had sold just over 30,000 cars. Now let’s do the math; with 20,000 Fiats in the bank to date, it’s likely a safe bet that by the end of April the 500 will have equaled or exceeded the Mini’s sales number. Especially now that the lion’s share of its dealers are up and running.

Again, remember this in an economy far worse than the one the Mini faced 10 years ago.

Today the Mini Cooper offers no less than six different models, most of which are offered in standard and perfromance versions. Forget the "10 million possible combinations" bs, at present the Mini has three times as many different models as the Fiat 500, which only offers a hardtop and convertible. A high performance Fiat Abarth is slated for spring

That’s a big benefit of Mini’s 10 year headstart, but remember it didn’t happen overnight.

Even with all those different models, Mini sold only 38.000 cars and change through October.

Given all of that, at first blush it would appear that Soave’s ouster may have been little more than a face-saving head-rolling by Fiat’s corporate cats who made the now embarrassing sales forecast in the first place.

Then came an astonishing comment on the Web site of Automotive News in its report of Soave’s firing.

"Everyone is missing the entire point that Chrysler is covering up the fact that Ms. Soave was having an affair with the head of the ad agency that she hired to handle Fiat’s affairs," posted registered Automotive News commenter R Taylor. "In addition, auditors were sent into the agency’s offices to investigate fraud."

Not surprisingly the comment was not long for this world.

"Oops! This isn’t what you expected!" the link now reads. "The page you were looking for has moved. We’re sorry, but the page you requested is no longer available or not found on our server. We apologize for any inconvenience."

The bottom line being that while Fiat was way optimistic in its launch timetable and sales forecast, all things considered, it’s not doing that bad.

You want optimism? try this.

In just over a week, the ad for the Fiat Abarth on YouTube has garnered more than 1.3 million views.

I remember the Land Rover salesman in Chattanooga traveling to Kingdom Come and paying full boat for one of the very first Minis. Next time I saw him he’d sold his Mini and was eagerly awaiting a Cooper S.

So we’ll see…

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10 Responses to Car: The Myth of Fiat’s Slow Start & Possible Sex Scandal

  1. Mark X says:

    … Hearne, Hearne, Hearne ..
    No cares about your obsession … no really.

    WE. DON’T. CARE.

  2. Starspangle says:

    I second the motion
    But they also have some trendy Gucci model now, for the Plaza set.

  3. harley says:

    hearne can do better…come on!
    this is your worst attempt at journalism. Who care. Fiat? Noone buys them in u.s.
    You have no contacts left in kc to report stories about kc. Al you do is get stories from
    other sources…you’re nothing but an agregator.
    you need to make an effort to reconnect with
    the shakers adn movers in this city.
    Loved to read about different people in kc and what they were doing. Where the action
    was. I don’t care about fiat and their sales and their sordid love affair.
    Hearne…i’m hoping you can turn this around…you were always the connection to new
    and great things happening in kc…hope you can return to those golden days.

  4. Hearne Christopher says:

    Quick question; are the periods after each word intended to substitute for ALL CAPS?

  5. Hearne Christopher says:

    Thanks, Wild Man

    Check out the Pletz follow-up.

  6. Robertoe says:

    Yep, she’s still dead!
    hmmmm….Hearne…..I’d advise NOT citing the Pletz follow-up piece as an example of ground breaking investigative ‘journalism’ into local personalities. There wasnt anything there!!!! except a fresh quote from a Wash U Prof saying it was a ‘probable suicide.’ Duh! No shit Professor Sherlock. Fluff, fluff, fluff. Local stories about Kansas Citian’s interactions with that winch would have at least contained some sort of fresh info or an interesting story line. Instead we got, “Yep! She’s still dead. Its gonna take 2 or 3 months to get the official suicide proclamation so I’ll keep running these fluff pieces over and over and over a la Brian Euston since Mermaid isn’t submitting! Stay tuned to see if shes still dead next week!”

  7. Hearne Christopher says:

    There was also an update check with Ft. Lauderdale police. Investigative reporting? Hardly, your words, not mine. There were some unreported details in there of note however. That her husband works in Jeff City not KC. That he’s not returning calls. That the medical examiner’s prelim isn’t back yet. And I think a noted Wash, DC prof weighing in was notable.

    I think you know better on Euston. I covered a lot of ground that no other media even touched during that. You wanna add something to the equation? Why don’t you recite your ex GF Sally Heneke’s tale of getting ripped off by Pletz.

  8. Robertoe says:

    no way
    I have nothing but respect, admiration, a warm spot in my heart and fond memories of Ms Heneke. Prudent decorum. She wouldn’t appreciate me divulging any such details or dealings so I wouldn’t do it. You, Hearne, on the other hand, have no such restrictions.

    Come to think of it, I see no juicy revelations or stories about Beena here from you. 🙂

  9. Hearne Christopher says:

    Well, Sally laid that one out from me two years ago and it wasn’t off the record. It was a window into Pletz about five months before the hospital let her go.

    I don’t see any Beena revelations from you either.

    She’s pretty much an open book, what are you looking for?

  10. Robertoe says:

    just making suggestions!
    I’ve already told you. I’m just making constructive suggestions. I thought your Pletz piece follow-up was lacking. It was. Notice zero comments.

    Yeah the Pletz jewelry story would have been excellent & very revealing about her true underhanded character.

    Revelations from me? I’m not on staff. As I’ve indicated before, if you had a decent blog platform that could evolve, I’d consider it.

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