Sergio Marchionne Says Fiat 500 Sales Goal Was “Naive” – You Think?

History has held that the only successful mini car in the United States has incidentally been the MINI. BMW’s smallest car line has thrived with an ever-expanding lineup that includes the recently-introduced Countryman small crossover. It is MINI’s largest model, but is still diminutive.

Fans of European small cars rejoiced last year when the Fiat 500 went on sale. It has been an interesting ride ever since. The 500 is aimed squarely at the MINI; the company has made that clear. Rather than capitalize on Chrysler’s dealer network with the 500 though, the decision was made to relaunch the Fiat brand.

That means a network of new Fiat Studio dealers was assembled, with just one product to sell. It was a curious decision. What was most puzzling though was the 500’s lofty sales goals: 50,000 units. That’s more than the MINI, and more than anyone in the industry thought Fiat could shift right out of the gate.

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It was a move sure to set the little car up for failure, and Fiat-Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne is now being candid about it.

“It was a number that we said would be in excess of what Mini was selling in the United States. It was that simple….we set ourselves up for a fall…the future of Fiat is exactly the same as when we launched it.” said Marchionne to CNNMoney. That means everything is still on track for U.S launch. It isn’t clear if anything else is going to be sold here with the Fiat badge though, or what is the state of the company’s plans with Alfa Romeo. It all seems incredibly haphazard.

Amid this, 19,769 Fiat 500s were sold last year, and that actually isn’t too bad. Marchionne said that the 500 is profitable at that level of U.S sales, thanks to the exportation of Mexican-built of 500s to China and South America. Marchionne targets 25,000-30,000 U.S sales this year, something that is much more attainable, especially with the Abarth coming online. Now if they could only figure out a coherent advertising campaign….