With the 500L, its second distinct product line, now rolling into U.S. showrooms, Fiat is pondering where to go next. The maker is hoping to broaden its appeal with an expanding array of microcars – but several senior officials hint that something a bit bigger could be in the cards, as well. The question now being debated internally is just how much bigger the brand can go.
After a painfully slow start, Fiat finally clicked with U.S. consumers in 2012, sales surging to 43,000, in line with earlier forecasts. The maker is hoping that the new 500L could bump that volume up substantially, the little people-mover potentially generating as much as half of the brand’s U.S. sales, according to Jason Stoicevich, who recently took over as North American brand boss.
He is quick to stress that doesn’t mean sales will double, as some potential Fiat buyers might switch from the little 500 coupe to the 500L – which is a full 27 inches longer and offers interior space nearly as big as the full-size Chrysler 300 sedan.
“We’re not going to set (unhealthy) numbers we have to chase,” Stoicevich told TheDetroitBureau.com during an interview in Baltimore where Fiat gave automotive journalists the first chance to drive the new 500L. “We want to grow, but we want to be smart about it.”