Fiat has big hopes for the 500 small car in the United States

Article by Christian Andrei, on October 5, 2010

Fiat will unveil the new 500 at 165 dealerships in the United States early next year and is optimistic that the car’s Italian style and outstanding fuel economy will attract many customers. The 500 is looked at with much sentiment by Italians as it had been the little economy car that put postwar Italy on wheels when it came out in 1957.

The 500 is likened to what the Volkswagen Beetle means for baby boomer Americans. Fiat has very high hopes for the revival of the 500 in North America. The new 500 is significantly larger than its predecessor but it’s much smaller than any vehicle in Chrysler’s lineup. Chrysler has yet to announce the list of the 165 dealership where the new 500 will be shipped to.

Fiat has substantial forecasts for the new 500 as it expects Americans to overlook the old "Fix It Again, Tony" stigma and come to appreciate the contributions of the Chrysler-Fiat partnership.

Unfortunately, the 500 is largely unknown in the US. As most only know it as the Luigi character in the 2006 Pixar cartoon film Cars, Fiat’s marketing team has its work cut out for it.

BMW’s Mini may have succeeded but the efforts of its marketing and engineering teams were formidable. The 500 will be entering a US market that has historically looked down on small cars; however, this segment is changing rapidly.

The 500 will be competing against European rivals like the Mini as well as newcomers such as the Ford Fiesta, which has upscale features and has a fuel economy rating of nearly 40 mpg. During a meeting with dealerships in Detroit on Aug. 30, Fiat said it forecasts the 500 to peak at about 78,000 units in 2013 for North America.

However, many dealers and analysts think that Fiat’s prediction is overly optimistic. According to Rebecca Lindland, analyst for IHS Automotive in Lexington, Mass., Fiat 500 sales are expected to peak at 40,000 in 2012, then fall to about 35,000 after that. [via autonews - sub. required]

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