Latest Automotive News

Subscribe in a reader

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has big plans for little Fiat 500

Email   small font medium font large font


TURIN, Italy (AP) _ Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has big plans for the little Fiat 500, hoping the redesigned version of the compact car that is being launched Wednesday can be for the automaker what the IPod was for Apple Inc.

The new model is a critical part of Fiat's strategy to secure its recovery, and the launch date was pushed up by two months to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first Fiat 500 in July 1957 in a sign of the company's eagerness to get the car to market.

Marchionne, who openly seeks inspiration from successful companies in his efforts to push the automaker to the top of the class, told the Turin daily La Stampa that he admired the IPod's cutting-edge melding of value and elegance.

``I want Fiat to become the Apple of automobiles. And the 500 will be our IPod,'' Marchionne said in an interview published Wednesday.

Marchionne, brought in by the Agnelli family that controls Fiat at the company's darkest moment, returned Fiat to profitability in 2006 by cutting noncore businesses, seeking industrial alliances and setting an ambitious slate of new car launches. He said there was little risk now of backsliding.

``We have sweat blood in these years to relaunch. July 4 is a new beginning for Fiat,'' Marchionne said.

The iconic predecessor of the new Fiat 500 did more than any other automobile to get the Italian masses behind the wheel.

When it was introduced in 1957, the Fiat 500 cost 450,000 lire _ the equivalent today of US$284 _ at a time when the average worker earned 30,000 lire a month. Still, with financing, it was affordable enough to get Italians off their bicycles and Vespas and onto four wheels.

Of the more than five million original 500s, more than half a million are still on the roads in Europe, some 30 years after production was halted.

The price of the new Fiat 500 has not yet been released but media reports have estimated it to be between 10,000 and 15,000 euros ($13,600 and $20,400).

Fiat aims to sell 50,000 new Fiat 500s by the end of the year, and already has 25,000 dealer orders. The company targets 120,000 sales of the car a year, with a break-even point of around 85,000 units.

The car was designed by Frank Stephenson, famous for the successful redesign of the Mini, made by BMW AG. Analysts say the nostalgic appeal of the new Fiat 500 should help the company strengthen its brand after the launches of the restyled Punto and the Fiat Bravo sedan.

The car is being built on a shared platform with the replacement for the Ford Ka _ part of Marchionne's strategy to cut costs through partnerships with other automakers.

Among those given a sneak preview was Premier Romano Prodi.

``This car has great symbolic value,'' Prodi told reporters before the unveiling. ``All the other cars look alike. This one is different than the rest.''

Some enthusiasts who previewed the new 500 say it has retained the line of its predecessor _ but with modern comforts. In addition, customers will be able to pick out designs to personalize the body _ such as paintings of flowers or a hot-rodder's flames.

``The 500 has always been in the hearts of Italians, and I think therefore that it will be a great success,'' said Silvia Depaoli, president of the Fiat 500 Club Italia.

Receive the latest automotive news by email!

Enter your email address:

Related news
MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Italian automaker Fiat Group Automobiles announced a joint venture Tuesday with Chery Automobiles of China to produce Alfa Romeo and Fiat brand cars for the Chinese market. The deal ...
MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Fiat Group Automobiles SpA announced Tuesday that it has signed a letter of intent to create a joint venture with Russia's Severstal Auto to build and sell Fiat ...
Italian carmaker Fiat Auto and China's Chery Automobile Co. Ltd. announced Tuesday they have signed a memorandum of understanding to supply gasoline engines for Fiat cars produced both in and ...
Fiat SpA reported a 76 per cent drop in third-quarter earnings Thursday compared to results inflated by one-time gains a year ago. But its core automaking division posted its fourth ...
MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Fiat SPA's share of the domestic new car market rose to 31 per cent in April, Italy's Transport Ministry said Tuesday, as the company's new flagship model, the ...
Fiat SpA chief executive Sergio Marchionne laid out an ambitious set of four-year targets on Thursday aimed at propelling the newly revitalized company toward capturing a bigger share of the ...
MILAN, Italy (AP-CP) _ Fiat is forming a joint venture with Russia's Severstal Auto to build and sell Fiat brand cars and commercial vehicles in Russia. The deal was announced on the sidelines ...
Unmistakable for its Italian styling, the new Fiat Croma stands apart for its soft, simple and pure design that enables the most spacious car in the segment to ...

Best Investment Newsletter

- 46% in 2008

- invest in the best performing US stocks only and sell them when the uptrend is over

- very easy to follow, simple buy/sell signals

- no need to have investing or trading experience

Find More Now!

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has big plans for little Fiat 500
> © 2006-2017 except where otherwise noted