500L, next step for Fiat USA

Fiat USA doesn’t stop. After the presentation of the 500e, it is now time for other members of the family. The new 500L, available in Europe since August, makes its debut at Los Angeles car show. Fiat has intentions to sell it next year so the cars presented in the auto show are just show cars intended to let the people to know it and at the same time continue with this plan of launches in every American show. When Fiat guys designed the 500L they were not only thinking of Europe. America was also in their minds as it is the natural market for larger cars. The 500L is certainly not a big car but represents the next step of 500 family. According to American standards the Cinquecento is really a small car so its sales figures do not reach the big numbers of larger cars. It is why Fiat wants more with the introduction of the small MPV. It will be available in Fiat dealerships by June 2013 and is expected to boost Fiat sales, which are now around 4.000 units/month. Due to the fact that small cars have never been popular in the States, there is not a clear difference between A and B segments. For Americans they are all small cars. The same happens to what are known in Europe as B-MPV segment. The 500L is part of the smallest minivans and therefore in USA it will be part of the A/B/B-MPV segment, all of them together. Actually it will be one of the few small minivans to be offered over there, along with Honda Fit (aka Jazz), Kia Soul and Nissan Cube. The offer will be composed by two versions sharing the same engine. The regular 500L and the 500L Trekking, both powered by 1.4 MultiAir Turbo with 160 HP, and manufactured in Serbia. This engine will be also available in Europe, aswell as the Trekking version.

The 500L offer for America will be composed by the regular version and Trekking. There are some differences with the European version but they are all coming from Serbia plant, which will have the challenge of exporting to USA. It means also that this time the car does not benefit from lower taxes as it happens to the Mexican Fiat 500.

Small cars are becoming more important in USA. The segment includes all mini, subcompact and subcompact minivans, that are known in Europe as A, B and B-MPV segments. Due to the lack of offer (not anymore) of recent years they are all comprised in just on segment known as small cars. Last year more than 520.000 units were sold, counting for only 4.1% of American market. In Europe the 3 segments counted for about 38% of sales. However the offer has been increased with the arrival of more options, such as the Ford Fiesta or Chevrolet Spark/Sonic. This year (till October) more than 570.000 units have been sold, up 26% (Note: Nissan Versa is not considered in this segment as last year was counted in C-Segment; nevertheless it is now considered a small car but for comparisons reasons the total for 2012 does not include its sales numbers). The leader of the segment is Kia Soul, a small MPV, that could be considered the direct competitor of the 500L in that market. Americans have realized small cars are useful and not unsafe. They are now thinking of them. It is why Fiat wants more and the 500L is the right car for them. Target sales? nothing for sure, but Fiat could sell around 60.000 units of this car in its first complete year, based on Kia Soul and Honda Fit sales figures.

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