Fiat Ain’t Dead Yet: Ailing Brand Will Get New Models, Says Boss

Don’t count out Fiat in the U.S. quite yet. Yes, you can count sales of the 2022 Fiat 500X—the brand’s lone remaining product in America—using your fingers and toes right now, but there are exciting new models in the works and Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares thinks the Italian brand has a future on this side of the ocean.

“We can bring something to the U.S. market if we don’t disregard the U.S. market,” Tavares says, adding he thinks there are customers who would enjoy the small cars, perhaps as a third family vehicle, if appealing new models were brought to market in an innovative way.

Again, the 500X is the only model Fiat now sells here, the brand having discontinued other models (including the iconic 500) after the 2019 model year after they failed to resonate in the market. But a wider portfolio continues to sell in Europe, including the all-electric Fiat 500e.

“We are working hard on a plan to revitalize Fiat in the U.S.,” Tavares told a small group of media in Detroit. Fiat has not shown its future products publicly, but they “are very exciting,” he says. “I’m extremely optimistic.”

Tavares said he thinks the cute 500e would sell in California, as would new  trendy, fashionable Fiats. He acknowledges that the 500 was not a success in the U.S. in the past, and he has no intention of repeating the past practice of selling the car at a loss. But he does not rule out future, profitable models.

Survival of 14 Stellantis Brands

The merging of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group in January created Stellantis, a big automaker with 14 brands to wrangle, each with individual managers.

The reason for 14 brand CEOs is because it is difficult to love 14 kids in the same way, Tavares says of the corporate structure at Stellantis. He has given each of the 14 brands a 10-year window with funding for the core models to work with. Every brand already has some projects approved. Tavares says he expects to reach a conclusion on the viability of each brand  in 2024 or 2025.

There is respect for the history of many of the storied names and Tavares says he cannot ignore the fact some have been in existence for more than a century. Many have survived difficult moments, near-death experiences, and many owners. Brands like Chrysler and Dodge, Jeep and Ram mean something in America and deserve respect.

Today, all brands are working to bridge the past and the future. They must define themselves with a clear vision that can be summed up in a single word, such as “freedom” for Jeep. and “work” for Ram. They must present a clear vision of how they should change with societal evolution, the value of the brand, its customer profile, and overall business plan.

“I’m not here to destroy. I’m here to build,” Tavares said.

Stellantis is investing heavily in software which it sees as a strategic advantage for the automaker as a whole, but also a way to differentiate each brand and generate passion. Let’s see how that plays out for Fiat.

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