Fiat, one of the best-selling brands in Europe, has struggled to gain traction in the United States. The effort has gone badly, and recently it has gotten much, much worse. The brand’s sales have dropped to about 12 cars a day.
Fiat faces two problems, neither of which is likely to be overcome. The first is its extremely poor reputation for quality. The other comes from large and relentless competition from small, low-priced vehicles sold in America made by almost every global manufacturer.
Fiat sales totaled 372 in September, or about 12 a day. They have averaged less than 400 a month over the course of the first three-quarters of the year. Fiat sold 9,204 cars in 2019 and 15,521 in 2018. Its sales have fallen every year since 2014.
Fiat’s sales have dropped so much that many car quality research studies do not include the brand. In recent years, it had been rated at or near the bottom of carefully followed J.D. Power studies for both quality and dependability.
Fiat’s flagship is the 500 series car. With a base price of between $16,495 and $23,340, it competes with the inexpensive, low-powered small vehicles across at least a dozen other manufacturers. At the head of this list are the Toyota Yaris, Chevy’s Spark and Sonic, and the Kia Rio.
These smaller cars have experienced declines in sales, in most cases, as people move to sport utility vehicles and crossovers. For Fiat, this is a consumer trend headwind.
For parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU), the challenge has become whether it should drop the Fiat brand in America completely. Ford removed some of its cars from the U.S. market and focuses mostly on its SUVs, crossovers and pickups. Fiat, based on sales alone, should go away.