Mopar for Fiat... missing the mark

by Michael Satterfield

I have always been a fan of Fiat, having owned a Moretti-Fiat 124, a 850 Coupe, a few X1/9's and a numbe of 124s. So when news that we would be getting Fiat back in the USA again came around I was excited. But that excitment soon faded when it became clear that the US version of Fiat would have far too much Chrysler and far to little Ferrari in the branding.

I have worked in some form of marketing all of my life, so when the Fiat brand launched with J-Lo thrusting her hips in a strange dance number or talking about growing up in poor urban neighborhoods  I knew that one of the brightlights that drove Chrysler into bankruptcy had been recycled and put in charge of Fiat's US branding. This was reenforced upon my first visit to a Fiat dealer, where the guys who had been given the best job in the car business were all the guys that could not cut it at the Chrysler dealer across the street. The studios oozed style, the cars were fun, new, different, the pricing is dead on, but instead of being greeted by an enthusastic Fiat lover, I walked the lot for nearly 30 mins, only when I went inside and yelled "HELLO" did someone appare. Now you would expect some guy in pressed chinos and a nice Fiat poloshirt to come out and greet you. Instead it was a guy in a bad suit that was a size too big. 

For selling one car, he did not know any of the specs, horsepower, options, etc... but anyways that was the issue with the first part of the roll out. The second is the aftermarket dealer parts being branded as Mopar, now this is nothing new, but it was a little less in-your-face then it was presented at SEMA this year. Now when I think of hot Fiat, I think of Abarth, infact the inhouse performance model is a Abarth, but for some odd reason the branding gurus at Chrysler/Fiat thought that connecting the Mopar brand to Fiat would be a good idea. When I think Mopar I think of old guys at the drag strip, and Hemi, not nimble European hot hatch.

I don't know if Fiat will have long term success in the USA with product like the 500 and 500L unless they sell the sizzle that is the idealized European fantasies many Americans have, the Fiat 500 needs to transport you from a sad commute in Ohio instantly to driving the along the Italian coast with each turn of the key.