One of the biggest (and smallest….) automotive stories of 2011 was the Fiat 500. There has been a lot of talk though about its failure to meet the lofty sales goals Fiat set for it. The company targeted 50,000 sales, with an overly-ambitious goal to beat the MINI right out of the gate.
That was always a tall order. Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne admitted as much recently. MINI is established, has brand cachet, and even more key, multiple models. The 500 is one car and it was launched with a widely panned advertising campaign. We questioned recently why the Fiat brand would be relaunched for just one model, and we’re getting an answer to that with news of a five-door 500. The Detroit Free Press reports it will be making an appearance at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
Word on that comes direct from Fiat CEO Olivier Francois. He says the car will be sold in the United States starting next year. Originally the five-door 500 was said to be U.S only, but that never made much sense. to us Fiat is a global company and this new car should be a global product.
This five-door 500 has big implications for sales. We know that Americans traditionally have never been big fans of hatchbacks, but the slowest sellers among them are ones that have three-doors. Most Americans want four-doors plus the lift gate. The five-door iterations are always the best sellers. In fact, most don’t even offer a three-door. Mazda does with the 2 currently, but the five-door outsells it. There are different reports as to what new five-door Fiat will look like. Some say it will be a 500 with two extra doors, others say it will be a larger, different vehicle but with shared design cues. We think a 500 with two extra doors would do the trick in boosting sales both here and abroad.