“See that sign over there?” The weathered, weary general manager of the dealer I was visiting that day pointed in the direction of a shiny, silver and red beacon with the word “FIAT” in bold capital letters. He spat the still-burning cigarette out of his mouth and stomped on it in disgust. “Cost me $27,000. They gave me the franchise for free, but they made me pay for that damn sign.”
“How many Fiats have you sold since you put it up?” The exasperated look he shot me after I asked that question told me that perhaps I shouldn’t have ventured into that territory.
“One.Â One freaking car. I’d have to sell about 40 of the damn things just to pay for the sign, much less make any money.” He gestured toward the line of Fiat 500Xs that were crowding his lot. “You wanna take a couple with ya? I’ll make you a hell of a deal.”
Even though I’m actually rather fond of the little crossover, I’m not fond enough to actually buy one. Apparently, nobody else is either. And that’s a problem for FCA dealers.
If you’re playing along at home, you’ll realize that 27,000 divided by 40 is 675. I verified with the GM that he wasn’t just spouting that number out of frustration â€” he said that’s all the money there is to be made, on average, with the Fiat line of product. And after reviewing the data on Edmunds.com, he may have been generous with his estimations. Even if a customer comes in and pays MSRP with no questions asked, there’s less than $200 of room between the invoice price and sticker. Factor in holdback and you might be in the $600-700 range, but as you can see in the screenshot of Edmunds data at the top of the page, the true market value for these cars is considerably under invoice minus holdback.
That is, of course, assuming anybody actually wants to buy one. “Interested in a Ram 1500? How about this little pansy car over here instead?” One of the sales guys mimed a common customer interaction. “A Jeep Wrangler? What about this Fiat? Nah, man, I don’t think so.” All of the Fiats on this lot were 2017 MY, because the GM had no interest in ordering any 2018 inventory.
My eyes drifted over to a black Abarth 124 Spider that was hiding behind the row of 500x inventory. Like the rest of the Fiats on the ground there, it was a 2017 model, with a sticker price of $31,500 or so. I’ve driven the Abarth before, and I’ve found it to be about 90 percent of an ND Miata when it comes to driving enjoyment â€” the exhaust note is unpleasant, but the rest of the car is quite delightful. “What about that one?”
The GM laughed. “Hell, I’llÂ give you that one. Tired of looking at it.” I checked the invoice on that one, and there’s aÂ little bit more profit â€” about $600 plus holdback. Unfortunately, no matter how good the deal might be, I have no need for a two-seater convertible in my life. I shared my feedback with the GM, and he agreed. “We’ll probably end up writing it down and then trying to sell it as a used car down the road. Instead of losing money, we’ll make a little bit. IfÂ we can even sell it that way.”
FCA finds itself in a bit of a pickle â€” it doesn’t have a Chrysler or Dodge small car anymore, and nobody is interested in the small Italian Jobs pushed by Fiat. I imagine somebody in Auburn Hills thought that the Fiat lineup would fill the gap left by the Dart and the 200. Insert a Donald Trump “WRONG” gif here.
Fiat sales in the U.S. are down 44 percent, year over year, making it the worst-selling non-exotic brand in America. Fiat volume lags behind such volume makes as… Genesis. Even brother Alfa outsells Fiat. The current Fiat on-hand supply is the highest of any manufacturer, at a whopping 161 days â€” that’s right, Fiat doesn’t have to ship another car to dealers until September 20th and they’ll beÂ just fine.
WeÂ couldÂ do a Fiat Death Watch series here, but why? It’s like doing a Death Watch on your 104-year-old great-grandmother. We all know it’s coming, right (Of course, it’s coming for all of us someday #nihilism)? If FCA really cared about dealers at all, it would stop punishing them with these mini floorplan anchors, and they’d look at bringing back a passenger car â€” any passenger car â€” that Chrysler and Dodge dealers could actually sell.
In the meantime, if you actually are interested in a Fiat, give your local dealer a call. My guess is he’ll beg you to take one off his hands at a significant loss.