US-based Fiat dealers are in better place after botched Fiat 500 launch

Article by Christian A., on February 22, 2012

Fiat dealers in the U.S. are seeing the initial results of the efforts made by Chrysler Group to fix its badly executed Fiat 500 launch. With 0% financing for customers, more advertising, new brand leadership and new products, Fiat dealers are now in a better position than they were half a year ago. Moreover, Fiat also has discontinued airing TV advertisements featuring entertainer Jennifer Lopez. 

In November, Tim Kuniskis was appointed head of the Fiat brand in North America, replacing Laura Soave, who left the automaker after 20 months. Kuniskis had been helping Soave during her last months in the position while also serving as marketing boss for the Chrysler brand.

Since his promotion and with a mandate from Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to fix what went wrong, Kuniskis checked each of the brand's almost 140 dealers in the U.S. in a two-week period. He has modified the marketing strategy of the 500, and increased local and national advertising for the vehicle. General Manager Lisa Crawford of Fiat of Austin in Texas related that Kuniskis "went eyeball to eyeball with every one of us, and that wasn't always easy." She added that Kuniskis is the "right guy at the right time."

Many were surprised when Chrysler Group run the popular "Seduction" video, its 30-second online video clip featuring the Fiat 500 Abarth, during the Super Bowl as a commercial. The Abarth has a 160-hp 1.4-liter engine with Fiat's MultiAir variable valve system and a five-speed manual transmission.

It will be available for sale in spring. Marchionne disclosed that it will be followed by an electric variant of the subcompact this year. He added that the four-door 500L and an Alfa Romeo automobile (which wasn’t identified yet) will follow in 2013.

When it comes to the Fiat 500C, there is no doubt that the interior has a rather exclusive feel to it. The fabrics used for instance are not merely highly desirable but of top quality. Frau leather upholstery can even be seen. Standard features include the advanced Interscope HiFi System, automatic climate control, Start&Stop system, smart wind-stop, and the Blue&Me Map portable navigation.

Fiat is offering a host of personalization options. One feature that stands out in the Fiat 500C is the soft top. While they are electrically controlled, the movements of the soft top are elegant and have a striking finish. There are a number of excellent technical features like the glass window in the rear. A third brake light has even been integrated to the soft top.

In terms of color, three are offered for the soft top which are black, red, and ivory. These are matched with three new colors with one being Goth-Metal Blue which the brand expects to make available for the entire lineup. Then there is the Ragamuffin Red and the color that one usually sees in super cars which is Tech House Grey. Regarding the first cabriolet version, one of its best features was the remarkable acoustic and climate comfort.

One of the problems with open roofs is that the vehicle typically experiences turbulence. However the brand conducted aerodynamic studies in order to minimize the turbulence. The result is that occupants are able to enjoy each other’s company and get a breath of fresh air at the same time. However for the new 500C, Fiat implemented a redesign giving it a more modern look.

Thus even the electric-powered sliding roof comes with a style that continues the form of the iconic car. Because of this, the 500C is a model that can be enjoyed for the entire year rather than being a seasonal product. All of the different features make the 500C a highly successful convertible under the urban car segment. In designing the 500C, Centro Stile Fiat used what is known as the open-source method.

What this method entails is to continuously improve a product by getting input from the consumers. For the 500C in particular, the design center communicated with the various groups of Cinquecento fans, specifically the website of the 500 Wants You. Through this, the brand is able to cement its status of delivering models that are by the people and for the people.

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