After four years, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has taken its share of lumps for the halting performance of the Fiat brand in the U.S. where it still hasn’t won the hearts and minds of the American consumers.
Nevertheless, the Fiat brand has established a beachhead in California with the introduction of the new Fiat 500X. FCA US hopes to raise the brand’s profile across the country starting there. Last year, Fiat sold a total of 46,121 vehicles or fewer vehicles than struggling brands such as Mitsubishi and Volkswagen. But more than 30% of Fiat’s sales were in California, which remains the center of the automotive fashion.
As it stands, Fiat has done relatively well in California, observed George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, which track product developments in the car business.
Jason Stoicevich, vice president of the Fiat brand in the U.S., acknowledged Fiat’s sale of an electric vehicle boosts sales in California. But the number of Fiat EVs sold in the state is relatively small and the overall number of Fiat vehicles on the road in California is steadily growing.
“We do very well in Los Angeles but we do even better in the Bay Area,” he said, adding Texas and South Florida are two other areas where Fiat has done relatively well.
In addition, 87% of the customers buying one of the dozen Fiat models that have been spun off from the tiny Fiat 500 and its slightly larger cousin, the Fiat 500L, are new to the FCA family of vehicles. Stoicevich noted there is ample reasons for more optimism as FCA US lays the groundwork for the introduction of the Fiat 500X over the next month or so.
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“It’s an extremely important vehicle launch for us,” he said, noting the Fiat 500X is larger and more versatile than either the 500 or 500L and thus has more natural appeal for American customers.
In addition, the small crossover segment in which the 500X competes with the likes of the Mini, Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, Kia Soul and the new Chevrolet Trax is the fastest growing part of the automotive market right now.
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“There is going to be a lot of competition in the next few months in this segment,” he said, which will draw even more attention to it. “We need to tap that market.”
The 500 is undersized for the U.S. market, but the 500X is closer in size to what Americans expect from a small vehicle. In addition, thanks to the efforts of FCA’s Italian designers it will reach with its own unique personality and flair.
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The price for 500X will start at $20,000 and FCA is making some the latest technology, such as a nine-speed transmission, driver assistance features, such as a lane departure warning system and an all-wheel-drive system, which will help boost the car’s sales in places such as the Northeast where sales have lagged in the past four years, Stoichevich said.
Stoichevich declined to offer any kind of expected sales numbers, but he said it is certain to boost the Fiat’s total sales in the U.S.