Presenting: The 2011 Chrysler Fiat Cars - Part IV
A lot of hype has surrounded the supercute Fiat and soon to be Chrysler 500. Hey, it really is supercute in a 1960s Roman Holiday sort of retro motorized skateboard way. However, the biggest problem with the car is exactly the same as its biggest appeal. It's tiny. No, not just small, but incredibly microscopic!
Anyone who has ever been in a new Fiat 500 will confirm that there is absolutely no doubt that at least 30% of the North American population would not ever be able to squeeze themselves behind the steering wheel unless they removed the driver's seat and sat in the back! And even if you're able to do that, then you'll have to drive around with your window down 12 months of the year, otherwise your left arm will have to be held up over your head! And if you're not obese but six feet or over, your knees will be up around your ears!
Believe it or not, there is more usable, comfortable, ergonomic space in the driver's seat of a Smart Car than in a Fiat 500!
Sergio is soon going to find out that you can't support North America's third major automaker on novelty cars, nor are they likely to line up anytime soon for Alfa Romeo Breras or 159s that loaded out the door set the buyer back over fifty grand.
"Dang gum it, for that sorta money you'd figger you could git yerself a real car, not a scrawny lil Euro-toy! I can git me three Dodge Ram 1500 pickemup trucks for that same stack o' cash!"
Therefore, what are the prospects for Chrysler - Fiat? Sergio, my ol' bud, I am of the opinion that you didn't really think this one all the way through. (Or maybe you did, as you suckered your way into owning 20% of Chrysler without putting out one single Euro cent.)
Fact #1: Chrysler - Fiats cannot be sold before 2011. That's six long quarters away, a full year and a half. Exactly what do you expect your dealers to be selling in the meantime? Dodge Calibers that are literally being given away right now across North America and buyers still don't want them? How is what is left of Chrysler's dealer network going to keep paying the electric bill if they have no product to speak of, and Jeep and Dodge Ram simply isn't enough to stay open?
Fact #2: Sergio, you have worked wonders for most aspects of the economic bottom line of Fiat's widespread group since you took over from the deadbeat Agnellis, but you're still not in what anyone could call a strong financial position. Homologation is going to be expensive and you're facing working without any cashflow from your North American operations for just a bit under two years. Where is the cash coming from?
Fact #3: You've stated that Fiats in North America won't just be homologated and rebadged, but fully re-engineered to be truly North American models. Same question as #2: Where is the cash coming from? That sort of re-engineering is a mega-billion dollar task.
Fact #4: There is no doubt in the mind of any astute automotive industry observer that unless by 2011 gasoline is $10 a gallon, North Americans are not going to be desperate enough to dive into microcitycars with 1 litre engines... and if they were so totally panicked, there are many world cars bearing the Ford, Toyota, Honda and other renowned quality nameplates which could be imported to satisfy this demand. Let's face it: Fiat is a fairly crappy brand with a truly bad (and in many cases well deserved) quality reputation. And just wait for the backlash of American Fiat drivers when they start trying to do Chicago to Spokane on those big, wide, windy prairie Interstates and find themselves blown off the road by every passing 18-wheeler. Aint nuthin' like that in Europe!
So, Sergio, what's going to happen now?
No, I can't blame you for grabbing one fifth of an automaker for free... that was the Marxist-inspired giveaway of the century. The new US President was too busy rubbing his little Commie hands in glee in the prospect of turning over majority ownership to his beloved unions that he would have given 20% of Chrysler away to Spencer and Heidi Pratt, but the added advantage of your widely lauded "technology transfer valued at over $10 billion" (which likely means you're just going to email over a CAD file attachment of some engine tooling... $10 billion my big fat Italian butt...) really sealed the deal: Especiallly if the North American auto industry has to live up to Obama's pie in the sky MPG goals which can likely only be met by putting half of the American motorists on a bus.
Good for you, paisano! You pulled a fast one on the Yankees. I'll buy you a cappuccino at Caffe Diplomatico on College St. next time you're out this way.
But... now you have to make something out of your Obama present...
... and that's going to be the hard part.
To paraphrase Top Gun, "your mouth is writing checks your factories can't cash."
Buona fortuna, amico. You're gonna need it!
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