Not too long ago, things were looking good if you were an American Fiat dealer. The first wave of Fiat’s diminutive 500s sold out almost immediately. People were excited about the EV version of the 500. Add to that, the enthusiast press was super-psyched about the Zagato and Abarth go-fast versions of the little coupe. The 500L, a larger, 4-door car with roomy upright seating and decent MPG, would add some meat to the lineup, too – all while the owners of Fiat stores waited for their real prize: the US return of Alfa Romeo.
Despite that early optimism and success, Fiat has hit a snag. Demand has stagnated despite the addition of the 500L compact hatchback, and sales were actually down more than 24% year-over-year last month, while the rest of the market grew and sales of plug-ins and EVs soared.
Still, many Fiat dealers still believed. The Alfa would draw in young buyers, who would leave in 500s. It would be the perfect halo car. “You never know,” said one Fiat dealer, who asked to remain anonymous. “You can get one product that turns really hot, and it could turn everything around.”
Now, the sexy, slinky, Miata-sized 4C coupe Alfa Romeo (shown, above) is finally ready to invade US shores. Fiat’s dealers are desperate for it. Alfa’s owners at Fiat, however, have different plans for Alfa Romeo: it’s going to the company’s 67 US Maserati stores.
Understandably, Fiat dealers are pissed. Even if they’e only speaking off the record (for now), Fiat dangled Alfa Romeo in front of its prospective Fiat dealer franchisees like a carrot in front of a mule. I personally know two Fiat dealer principals who bought in specifically because they thought – whether they had reason to or not – that doing so would get them Alfa Romeo. From here on out, I’d expect some icy relationships between Fiat dealerships and the Chrysler franchisees who support and fund them.
Did I say “fund them”? Yes. According to Automotive News, “figures shown to dealers indicate that only about 45 percent of Fiat dealerships are profitable.”
What do you guys think? Will Fiat be able to turn it around with the addition of the sexy Alfa Romeo brand, or is this just one more generation of Americans learning about “Fix it again, Tony” for themselves? Let us know what you think, in the comments.
Source: Automotive News.