Fiat’s Small Cars to Take Over America, Too?

by Benjamin Jones on January 28, 2009

Fiat 500

Fiat is well known for very small cars like the above 500, but up until now that fame has not extended far beyond Europe where cramped cities and narrows roads have made small cars a necessity for many drivers. For a few years there has been a little controversy surrounding the fact that Japan’s kei cars and Europe’s similarly small sub-compacts completely outpace the U.S. vehicles in terms of mileage but are not offered in North America even by the very companies that produce them successfully in other markets.

However, it seems like that is about to change.

That’s because Fiat, the famous European maker of mini autos now owns 35% of Chrysler. How much was Chrysler worth to Fiat, you might ask. Well, it’s hard to say, because no money actually changed hands. What Chrysler gets in exchange for 35% of the company is access to Fiat’s small car platforms.

Chrysler, which is owned privately and has already put in for a government bailout, is grasping at straws. You can expect that they will have to cut down on some of their underperforming brands, but at the heart of the matter is the fact that the company doesn’t have any notable small, fuel efficient cars (they might have some but I say “notable” precisely because they have not marketed for fuel economy enough to make an impression on the market).

With Chrysler having been seriously in danger of going under recently, it makes sense that they would enter into this arrangement, but you have to wonder what Fiat will get out of it. If Chrysler succeeds with Fiat’s vehicles the company will have a large stake in a successful company. However, if Chrysler fails Fiat’s stake might not be worth anything. If this is the case, Fiat might at least accomplish the goal of spreading their platform to North America in preparation for the entrance of a Fiat brand.

Anyway, no one can say quite what will come out of this since the deal is fairly new, but hopes run high on this side of the pond at the prospect of a quick infusion of fuel efficient vehicles rather than a long run up as Chrysler tries to develop its own line of small vehicles.

Would you buy a Chrysler 500?

Popularity: 18% [?]


1 elhigh April 2, 2009 at 4:42 am

Would I buy a Chrysler 500? Sure. Chrysler’s actual involvement in the vehicle will probably be next to nothing. It will be a Fiat through-and-through.

Fiat used to have a definite presence in North America. I never see anything from them in the States anymore (I don’t know about other NA countries, Canuckians weigh in!) so any Fiat I see is bound to have been around. And if it’s on the road under its own power, well chalk up another loving caregiver.

I think the 500 is a smarter car than the smart. It seats four, doesn’t take up appreciably more space on the road, and frankly is just plain adorable. Fiat’s “Fix It Again, Tony” reputation isn’t as applicable as it used to be – now I’d guess Fiat products are at least as reliable as anything from Chrysler. That isn’t saying much in favor of Chrysler, but maybe Chrysler’s reputation could improve by association.

2 Patrick May 1, 2009 at 12:18 am

You have to be joking. I dinky toy like that for $ 12ooo. Firstly, it is not going to stand up to the safety requirements of the US – wait until the first one gets into an accident with any standard US auto, Secondly, after they start putting on all the environmently friendly equipment, lets see if it still gets 40 miles to the gallon. Also, lets see if the performance is going to be acceptable to what the US citizen is used to. What is toted as a 40 mil/gal auto does not tell you where its being driven and at what speed. Finally, how are you going to fit the standard US citizen into that size car ??? The average US person will have to sit in the rear seat !!! If you don’t believe me, just look at how many people are driving the BMW mini, the Hyundai is a much better option to the Fiat 500. The Alfa range is a better option but still temperamental and expensive. Sorry chrysler, but you are not going to survive with this plan.

3 elMike January 6, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Outside of Europe. Fiat has been huge in Argentina were 40-50 yrs ago they already came out with the Fiat 600 or “bolita” Then they had the 1500, 125, 1100 1300, the Duna and the newer ones that I don’t remember the names because I came to America. I trust that Fiat will do great here in America, especially in the city environments.

4 Eric February 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm

You know talking about letting little cars into the country such as the 500 has been going on for years. Some people talk like this is the first time weve ever had microcars here in this country. I could think of a handful, Subaru 360, the original Austin Mini Cooper, now the smart car. Sure there not big old heavy tanks like were used to driving but maybe these bigger cities might benefit having these little “bugs” think of parking you can squeeze couple into one spot, you go to visit a big city drop your monster SUV off at the car rental agency and rent a “bug” to drive around in the city. You wont have to worry cause everyone will be drivng one too. Ive seen the new Fiat 500 here in America actually here in Michigan and honestly its almost like the new mini cooper only taller and not much differnt than say a Neon, ford Focus, or the Aveo. Welcome to future as Brad Paisley would say, Smaller everything, cars,phones,dogs

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