In his massive plan to graft the European model onto the United States, Barack Obama’s Fiat 500 is the latest failure.
Behind today’s automotive trades headlines that Fiat’s brand chief has been fired from Chrysler North America is the fact that the Obamacar has limped out of the starting gates in the United States. The tiny, 40 mpg Fiat 500 was Green Church elder Obama’s central requirement in handing Chrysler over to the Italian maker for free in 2009. Fiat is “committed to building new fuel-efficient cars and engines right here in the United States,” Obama said in 2009 in hailing Fiat as the European tutor come to school Chrysler dunces on how to make green cars. “Fiat is prepared to transfer its cutting-edge technology to Chrysler.”
Since lecturing Detroit automakers as a candidate in 2007, Obama has fashioned himself an expert on what Americans want in an automobile. His choice of Fiat was inspired by the chance to bring the company’s tiny, 40 mpg 500 to the States. Never mind that gas prices in Europe are $8 a gallon. Or that Americans drive longer distances. Or that Europeans demand smaller cars for narrower streets.
The One knows autos.
In March of 2009, Obama initially denied Chrysler bailout funds unless its business plan included more small cars. The president’s auto task force urged the Chrysler-Fiat alliance saying it “has the potential to address some of these problems and provide Chrysler with a path to viability. A Chrysler/Fiat alliance could lead to Chrysler manufacturing fuel-efficient vehicles using Fiat’s technology.”
Fast forward two years and 500 sales have a flat. Meanwhile, Americans are gobbling up Chrysler SUVs — in defiance of Obama’s Euro-path for the company — and fueling the automaker’s resurgence.
In October, Chrysler Jeep truck brand sold 35,000 vehicles (with fat $5,000 profit margins) as the company posted a $200 million third-quarter profit. The Fiat 500 sold just 2,000 copies.
Despite a splashy U.S. debut including an ad campaign featuring pop star Jennifer Lopez and expensive, wrap-around, front page ads in USA Today, 500 “sales are far below projections,” reports the Detroit News.” About 15,800 Fiat 500s have been sold in the U.S. through October. That makes it nearly impossible to meet the target of 50,000 a year in North America annually.”
Indeed, the Obamacar is hurting on its home continent as well. The brand had been losing market share and is unprofitable.
The Fiat 500 is more evidence that — like Solyndra and windmills — Obama’s fascination with Europe has little to do with facts and everything to do with ideology. Obama is determined to convert Americans to the Green Church, but they aren’t buying.