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Batchelor: Fiat’s adding fun, but how will dealers fare?

Time 10:07 am, December 18, 2012

FOR the past couple of days I’ve been driving around in the latest version of the Fiat 500.

It’s the one with the adverts that end with ‘You dig’ – or, as I thought the first time I saw it, ‘You dog’. That’s right, Fiat has moved the 500 on from its retro 1960s bent and pushed it into the far-out, flared-trouser era of the 70s.

Called Colour Therapy, such cars get groovy white detailing, a pool ball for a gear knob and a body-colour palette that nods towards Carry on Camping.


It’s all a bit tongue in cheek and our Countrypolitan Yellow example somehow managed to clash with my entire wardrobe.

But behind the fun and games, I’m worried for Fiat dealers. There’s no doubting how much of a success the 500 has been for Fiat. People still want to buy them and residuals seem amazingly strong for a Fiat – but how long will this continue?

There are a fair few people who don’t like the retro car. I know plenty of people who dislike it and one glimpse at the forthcoming product range – a five-seater MPV called 500L, an SUV called 500X and a seven-seat MPV called the 500XL are all on the way – reveals these people are going to flash their cash elsewhere.

They could always spend their dosh on other Fiats, couldn’t they? I’m afraid not.


Fiat Group is really struggling in Europe. It can’t make money from the Punto (some European mass-market superminis only make £80 each for their makers in some instances) and Fiat has all but given up continuing to reinvent its C-segment offering.

The new Panda has lost its way a bit and why the hell would anyone buy a Doblo? And there are fears Lancia will shrink down to just its baby Ypsilon – because that’s the only one that’s selling.

The case is not much better for Alfa Romeo or Chrysler dealers in the UK either. Alfa only has two models and Chrysler… well, we all know the problem there.

So where do people spend their money if they want an Italian car? With the Romanians, that’s where.

I firmly believe Renault is onto something here with Dacia. With simple positioning and a clear strategy, they could wipe out the old mass-market makers who cannot move upmarket.

A large and profitable void has been left by the Koreans, and the people who’ll fill it are not the traditional Europeans, but those Frenchmen with Romanian produce. You dig?

 

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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