Ralph Gilles, global design head for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, just loves the little Fiat Toro pickup. He can’t get enough of it.
Unfortunately for FCA, and especially the Fiat brand, Americans certainly can say “no” to FCA models adorned with a classic Italian badge. Fiat, which returned to these shores just six short years ago, is floundering in North America, so ears perked up in Chicago yesterday when Gilles seemed to imply the brand might introduce a life-saving model into the U.S. market.
Alas, the company appears to have no intention of trying something desperate to stop the sales bleeding.
The Fiat Toro, a cute little four-door unibody pickup with an odd face, rides atop the same platform as the Jeep Renegade and next-generation Compass. In Latin America, it’s the pickup people want (and can afford).
While speaking at the Chicago Auto Show, Gilles stated, “Youâ€™re going to be seeing more from Fiat on the truck side, especially.”
Say what? The brand most famous for the Fiat 500Â â€” a car you could hide by standing in front of it and unbuttoning your coatÂ â€” will start flinging trucks everywhere? Maybe in America’s direction? Could the unibody Honda Ridgeline gain a midsize competitor?
Hold your horses, said Gilles, after the speculation machine began venting steam.
“I must clear something up from this morning
#MAMA “I meant I Love the new 2017 #FiatÂ Toro sold in Latin America, no plans to sell in the U.S,” Gilles tweeted shortly after making the statement.
I must clear something up from this morning #MAMA “I meant I Love the new 2017 #Fiat Toro sold in Latin America, no plans to sell in the U.S pic.twitter.com/aeChtwTTeD
— Ralph Gilles (@RalphGilles) February 9, 2017
Now, many will point out Gilles only said Fiat won’t bringÂ ToroÂ to the U.S., thus leaving the door open for the possibility that other Fiat trucks might. Of course, to pull it off, FCA would somehow need to sidestep the much-loathed chicken tax if any pickup were built outside of the current NAFTA nations.
Midsize trucks are a growing segment in the American automotive landscape, ruled by the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins, but eyed greedily by others. The Ford Ranger will return for 2019. Fiat, as it turns out, sells the midsize, body-on-frame Fullback pickup (essentially, a rebadged Mitsubishi Triton/L200) in Europe and a slew of overseas countries, but FCA has never breathed a word about that model making it to North America.
Basically, we’re left hanging here. The adorable little Toro and its two-piece tailgate will not spur a unibody pickup sales war with Honda, and Fiat, by all available evidence, will continue to struggle and slip on the sales charts.
According to trade publication Automotive News‘ product chart, the only new offering we can expect from Fiat in the foreseeable future is a refreshed 500X in 2019. Besides that, tumbleweeds. Meanwhile, Fiat started off the new year in poor form, logging only 2,164 sales in the U.S. in January. Compare that to the 2,594 sales in January 2016, and 3,255 sales in January 2015.
The brand’s sales plateaued almost immediately after its U.S. rebirth, reaching a “high” point of 46,121 units in 2014. Last year’s tally was 32,742. If the Toro isn’t coming, what will Fiat offer consumers to reverse its death plunge?
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]