The year 2012 is over and car sales data arrives from every market. While I prepare the whole year analysis for every market, there is one fact I wanted to share with you as I believe is relevant for Fiat. Last year it was not Italy the largest market for the small Fiat 500. 55 years after its introduction the name plate got its best sales outside its native country. For the very first time USA became the largest market for a Fiat model in history. It happened only 22 months after its introduction in that market and tells a lot of what is happening in USA and Europe nowadays. The difference is to short, but not the fact, as a popular Fiat (the same model that made of Italy an industrialized country after WWII) is now more popular in a market where small cars have been historically unpopular, than in Italy, the homeland of small European cars. According to official data, last year 43.772 Fiat 500 were sold in USA against 43.007 units delivered in Italy (both results include Abarth and Cabrio versions). It means that small Fiat had a spectacular growth in sales of 121% in USA and a drop in Italy of 28%. Of course when the analysis is made in terms of market share the situation is really different. Besides the same model is living two different moments in both sides of the Atlantic ocean. The 500 is still enjoying of its introduction phase in which many Americans begin to hear about it as a new car. In Italy the same model has been on the market since 2007 and it is now facing the decline phase waiting for a deep facelift.
However it is also important to consider the economic situation of both countries. US car industry is recovering slowly and last year it reached pre-crisis sales figures. Italy is facing one of the worst economic crisis in decades and its car industry is going back to the 70’s levels. Italians don’t buy cars as they used to, and those with higher prices (the 500 included) are suffering the consequences. What’s next? the small 500 seems to have reached its top in terms of sales volume in USA at around 4 thousand units/month, so in 2013 the Fiat could reach 50-55.000 units if Fiat continues to promote it as it has done so far. In Italy analysts expect a similar year but personally I think the situation will get worse in the first half of the year. This forecast and the fact that the 500 won’t have a clear successor this year, make me believe that the small Fiat will barely reach 40.000 units this year in Italy. Anyway the Fiat 500 is a great product that has demonstrated that wherever it is introduced it becomes a referent in the segment. Good for Fiat USA.