Hyperbole has gotten the best of modern society. You might say, “Those chips have no taste,” when asking your grocery-shopping spouse to stop buying those Garden Veggie Straws you so detest. But there is some taste; just not much. (Recommended: the rosemary olive oil flavor.)
“Alex Ovechkin doesn’t score goals any more,” your Capitals-loving son says. No, Ovechkin just doesn’t score as many goals as he used to.
Politicians never work together. There’s no sea ice in the Arctic. Subcompact crossovers always suck.
That’s the sort of rhetoric that minimizes the value of truth when truth is presented in an equally straightforward fashion. But in all seriousness, FCA Canada truly did not sell a single Fiat 500L in August 2017.
In fact, with alarming frequency, FCA Canada’s sales reports don’t include any Fiat 500L sales. But FCA Canada is sticking to its guns, unrelenting in the face of a horrifying popularity dearth, immutable when challenged by a Fiat lineup that needs an overhaul. FCA Canada confirmed as such to TTAC this morning: there will be a 2018 Fiat 500L.
The 500L, of course, was by no means the only issue in Canada’s Fiat boutiques last month.
All started out well for Fiat during its Canadian re-entry half a dozen years ago. In 2012, the brand’s first full year, Fiat’s 500 drove the brand’s market share up to 0.51 percent, no small feat for a single model line. In the U.S. that same year, Fiat managed only 0.30 percent market share, and by the time Fiat brand sales peaked in 2014, U.S. market share was actually down to 0.28 percent.
But Fiat’s Canadian decline occurred early, often, and harshly. By 2016, FCA Canada was selling fewer than 200 vehicles per month, 72-percent fewer than the 700+ it averaged in 2012, despite a much larger product lineup.
The Fiat 500L was the second element in that broadening lineup, but it was a misplay from the get-go. Looking at first like a potential rival for the Mini Countryman, the 500L was decidedly unattractive, unavailable with all-wheel drive, equipped with dreadful transmissions, and quickly the recipient of a reputation for poor reliability. Fewer than 2,500 were sold in its first full year of 2014.
By 2016, Canadian sales of the Fiat 500L were down 88 percent. Fiat was selling only 25 copies of the 500L per month. Could it be any worse?
Oh, it could be much, much worse.
In nearly half of FCA Canada’s sales reports so far this year — three of eight — the automaker has not reported even a single Fiat 500L sale.
Granted, we know there have been problems at the 500L’s Serbian plant. We know the 500L isn’t the freshest face in the catalogue. We know the 500X (sales of which plunged 78 percent to only eight units in August, bizarrely) is a far more desirable machine, outselling the 500L by 24-to-1 so far this year.
But an entire month goes by without a single 500L sale, three entire months go by (albeit non-consecutively) without a 500L sale, and FCA still determines that the 500L is a valuable member of the Fiat lineup?
The conundrum is North Korea-like in its level of complication: there is no good option. Killing the 500L highlights the abysmal failure that was its development. Keeping the 500L is, well… it’s a complete and total waste of brochure materials and website space.
Facing such limited options, “Fiat 500L continues to be available for 2018,” an FCA Canada spokesperson confirmed to TTAC today.
Elsewhere in Canada’s Fiat family, 500 sales tumbled 61 percent to only 34 units in August. The 124 Spider was the brand’s best seller with 36 sales, a two-unit year-over-year increase. Fiat accounted for 0.4 percent of FCA Canada’s August sales. With a 7-percent Jeep drop, a 61-percent Chrysler decline, Dodge’s 36-percent slide, a major 28-percent uptick at Ram, and 121 Alfa Romeo sales, total FCA sales were down 9 percent in August and are down 3 percent year-to-date. Canadian auto sales continued to surge toward yet another all-time record year with a 7-percent August boost.
In the U.S., Fiat sales are down 14 percent this year. Overall, FCA is off last year’s healthy pace by 8 percent. The Fiat 500L’s U.S. volume is on track to fall to roughly 1,200 units in 2017, down from 3,118 in 2016 and 12,413 units at its peak in 2014.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]