Fiat Sales Soft in October

Fiat recently released October sales for the U.S. market, and the results are disappointing. Fiat sales of the 500 and 500C dropped to 1965, a 71% drop in sales from September. Also, this happened in a month that saw sales increase for many automakers, including Chrysler. There are various reasons for the decline including the 500 losing its “new car” appeal and the dealer network being small, but I only want to point to one source: Jenny from the Block.

People barely know what car they are actually driving, so to raise awareness for an entire brand is a challenge. Because of this, first impressions are crucial. These first spots must communicate a laser guided brand focus and message. Do it right, and the positive afterglow will be attached your brand for years to come. Get it wrong, and the scarlet letter can hang around your brand no matter how many times you try to advertise away from it. This was Fiat’s moment to shine. They could have made an engaging ad that highlighted the many benefits of 500 ownership for both sexes. Instead they instructed an aging diva to gyrate hopelessly in front of the girliest version of the car available (for about 10 sec. tops), and run the spot almost exclusively during Sunday football. If Fiat was trying to make an impression that it could hang with the jock cars, it shouldn’t have worn a skirt to the homecoming game.

No car since the Ford Bronco has been tainted by association with a celebrity as much as the Fiat 500. And Fiat paid for this endorsement, Ford was just unlucky. On one hand, Fiat’s marketing push has brought the car to America’s attention, but with the wrong message, delivery, and execution. Ask any American about the 500 and they will know what it is. Shortly after that, they will retort with, “That stupid car J-Lo drives.” Try telling someone you are buying a 500 and watch them strain every muscle in their body to not laugh in your face. Because that’s what all jokes do, they make people laugh. But in this joke, the 500 is the punch line. The J-Lo spot has cemented the 500 as “That J-Lo car,” instead of “A fun car with big personality for little cost.” This is the biggest disappointment with the ad; the Fiat 500 is a great car, for a great price, but no one will see this because J-Lo is literally in the way.

Sales have reflected this. They were strong out of the gate as first adopters bought the car. Then, the second wave of sales would come if the ads were effective in attracting people unfamiliar with the brand. But they ads have failed in this regard and the sales reflect this. The 4 P’s of marketing must be used: product, price, place, promotion. Fiat only bothered to figure out the first three.

All is not lost for Fiat though. The testosterone fueled Abarth is just around the corner and it could be used as a launching pad to bring the entire 500 line some must needed respect from everybody. However, J.Lo will probably be in the ad, probably wearing some leather track suit, and Fiat’s public image will finally be cemented in failure, because it isn’t over until the fat lady sings.


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