Nearly one-third of the workforce at Fiat Chrysler Automobilesâ€™ plant in Kragujevac, Serbia, wasÂ laid off last week because of poor Fiat 500L demand.
In the United States, the 500L is by no means the only Fiat that isn’t selling.
Besides the 500Lâ€™s sharp U.S. sales decline â€” year-over-year volume has tumbled each month in the last nine months â€” the core 500 model which brought Fiat back to life in the U.S. has lost nearly half its volume this year, a 6,288-unit loss through only five months.
Meanwhile, the expectation that a crossover could make up for the poorly received 500L and rapidly aging 500 turned out to be false. A crossover, yes, that will be the ticket. Surely a crossover could work wonders. A relative of the Jeep Renegade, only prettier, could definitely restore Fiat to the peak glory days of 2014.
Glory days, when with two models in its lineup, Fiat USA failed to match its stated goal of 50,000 annual sales for the 500 alone? Of course, that Sergio Marchionne sales forecast was way off target.
Just as the 500L and 500X have missed the mark, as well.
â€œBlame me,â€� Marchionne said at the time. And if Marchionne deserves the blame for overstating the Fiat 500â€™s possible U.S. success, itâ€™s fair to give credit to Marchionne, FCAâ€™s CEO, for some of the automakerâ€™s U.S. success, as well. Emphasizing Jeep during an era of high SUV/crossover demand is turning out rather well.
Yet one of the Jeeps that have made these record sales possible, the Renegade, is an unpopular and undesirable utility vehicle when it wears curvaceous bodywork and a Fiat badge. Sure, here at TTAC, we prefer the charming Fiat 500X over its boxy Jeep sibling. And yes, we all knew that Jeep, a powerhouse of a brand, would sell more Renegades than Fiat dealers would sell 500Xs.
But there was nevertheless a belief that despite cannibalizing the 500L, the FiatÂ 500X would find a healthy measure of U.S. interest. After all, the subcompact crossover market doubled in size last year and grew 60 percent in the first five months of 2016.
Only 3 percent of the subcompact crossovers sold in America so far this year were 500Xs, however. The Renegade, on the flip side, leads the category and claims one-fifth of its sales.
Heading into May, Automotive News reported that Fiat dealers had a 163-day 500X supply of nearly 7,000 units, or about the number of 500Xs Fiat sold in a five-month span. The industry’s average is 70 days.
To be fair, the 500X is more popular now than the 500L was at its peak, albeit not by much. Fiat sold 15,763 copies of the 500X over the last year, but only soldÂ 14,128 copies of the 500L during its best 12-month stretch. However,Â 500X demand appears to already be fading, only one year into its lifecycle.
Fiat USA averaged more than 2,000 monthly sales in the fourth-quarter of 2015, but fewer than 1,300 per month since.
Weâ€™re talking about Dr. Jill Stein/Green Party levels of support here. As in the case of Dr. Stein, even if the 500X doubled its support base, itÂ would still generateÂ a scarcely measurable level of support.Â Presently, the 500X is Americaâ€™s 75th-best-selling SUV/crossover, behind two Land Rovers, two Porsches, two Volvos, and two Lincolns, and 66 others.
Moreover, the 500Xâ€™s additional sales arenâ€™t really additions at all. While Fiat has added 6,300 500X sales in the U.S. so far this year, the Fiat brand has lost roughly 10,000 500 and 500L sales, meaning brand-wide volume is down 19 percent.
If a small crossover couldnâ€™t bring Fiat USAâ€™s fortunes back from the brink, a two-seat Mazda MX-5-based roadster likely wonâ€™t do the trick, either.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcarÂ and on Facebook.