Passion or Reasonableness?

Fiat vs VW 3One isn’t better than the other but they are certainly two different worlds. They are associated not only with brain sides, but  with almost everything we do in life and the way we live. Passion and reasonableness are two words that describe even nations, cultures. Is part of the personality of people and lately of products. Of course no one has to choose, as most of us are passionate in some cases, while more rational in others. That’s good, because life is full of situations that require a good mix of both. Automotive world is part of this discussion as cars became part of life of lot of people and somehow they reflect the personality of their owners. Passion and reasonableness fit perfectly with my analysis of how I see Fiat Group and VW Group and their eternal rivalry. After my last visit to Geneva I confirmed it.

Geneva 2013 is a good example. VW's rock star was the XL1, a 3.88 m long hybrid coupe with the latest technology to become a referent of efficiency for future cars. Weight: 795 kg; CO2 emissions: 24 g/km. Fiat group's main event was the presentation of the Alfa Romeo 4C: the lightest entry sporty car available with 4 hp/kg. VW points on fuel efficiency. Fiat points on efficiency for fun. Two body languages, two different messages. Two different worlds. Source: Wikipedia

Geneva 2013 is a good example. VW’s rock star was the XL1, a 3.88 m long hybrid coupe with the latest technology to become a referent of efficiency for future cars. Weight: 795 kg; CO2 emissions: 24 g/km. Fiat group’s main event was the presentation of the Alfa Romeo 4C: the lightest entry sporty car available with 4 hp/kg. VW points on fuel efficiency. Fiat points on efficiency for fun. Two body languages, two different messages. Two different worlds. Source: Wikipedia

This is not about who’s better or not. My analysis doesn’t consider their size, technologies or the way they are facing the future. I think the only common thing between Fiat and VW is that they make part of auto industry. That’s all. I don’t want to make a comparison because they are so different in their way of conceiving a car that makes no sense to say that one company is better than the other one. Yes, VW is bigger and sells much more, but it is just one more player. My goal here is to analyze both companies from the point of view of their idea of what a car is, and therefore the relation there is between what they offer and what their customers are. As I said before, both sides of the brain have strong influence on people’s behaviour and the way we buy products. Cars became part of that and that’s why all auto makers offer us several options to fulfill our expectations. However most of them have their own personality from the moment they create a concept car till the moment they sell it.

Yes, it is ugly, very ugly. The Multipla is an example of how Italians dare no matter the final result. It was a flop outside Italy, but it was unique, original and a great idea. A rational creator wouldn't had ever conceived it.

Yes, it is ugly, very ugly. The Multipla is an example of how Italians dare no matter the final result. It was a flop outside Italy, but it was unique, original and a great idea. A rational creator wouldn’t had ever conceived it.

Fiat Group is Italy. A 500, a Giulietta or a Quattroporte are part of a company that makes part of a culture full of peculiarities that is closer to latin behaviour. It means that these cars are conceived and built under the Italian style: from the heart. Latin culture means passion. When Fiat thinks of a car it uses more its passional side, and it means that Fiat adds more emotion to its creations. They enjoy making cars, and they don’t conceive them as common means of transport. A car means feelings, love, hate, fun for an Italian. Of course this way of making a car has evolved according to what the market wants from a vehicle. In their cars anyone can see how the designers, engineers and marketing people had fun creating them. They may be right or wrong (it all depends on the point of view), but they certainly added passion to their work, making  of it a unique piece. Fiat Group is a reflection of Latin culture: to live life feeling it. That explains why they dare to propose cars other manufacturers wouldn’t do.  It explains why their passion for making cars has taken them to unknown situations that sometimes have bad results. Or who else would dare to produce and sell a car like a Multipla? I’m not saying that this way of creating and selling cars makes of Fiat Group better or worse than its competitors. It makes it unique.

The Golf is the perfect example of the 4 'P' of marketing: it is good as product, at promotion, at price and at place (distribution). It also explains the way VW works: evolution instead of revolution. The car is pretty much the same since its launch more than 30 years ago. Efficiency is the key.

The Golf is the perfect example of the 4 ‘P’ of marketing: it is good as product, at promotion, at price and at place (distribution). It also explains the way VW works: evolution instead of revolution. The car is pretty much the same since its launch more than 30 years ago. Efficiency is the key.

In the other hand there is VW Group as the most visible player of a group of auto makers that use more the rational part when conceiving a car. Volkswagen is German and therefore, in my opinion, more rational, more careful. Its goal is to produce the right car for the right people. VW understands the majority of customers as it creates the car most of them look for. Cars don’t mean the same as in Italy. Germans from VW look for optimization of processes, for efficiency above all. Then, their cars are closer to a high-end industrial product: good and efficient, with a decent package. I repeat, it is my opinion: VW cars are excellent… products. VW as part of that Northern Culture (Germany, Scandinavia, Anglo-saxon countries) follows the idea that things must always work. While they focus on results they look how to minimize risks. It’s the way they do it to obtain good results, such as the ones VW is having nowadays. As I said before, this way isn’t better or worse than others. If passion makes of Fiat Group a unique car maker, excellent work makes of VW Group one of world’s most profitable car makers. And profits count a lot!

Fiat vs VW 2

The difference between Fiat and VW is evident in all segments.

From the point of view of sales, VW’s formula is better. There is no doubt about it: the German group sells around 25.000 per day in the whole world against 11.000 for Fiat Group*. The success can be explained by several reasons, from which one comes from current discussion: cars are still an important product in life of people. They are important because they aren’t only the most comfortable way of daily transportation, but because they aren’t a disposable product. A car continues to be a non-affordable good for most people, so the purchase decision is mostly based on a deep analysis of the advantages and problems of a specific model. This can partly explain the success of a ‘conservative’ brand as VW. Not everybody is crazy about cars. In fact most people don’t care about it till they realize they need one. And when that moment arrives, as they don’t really care and they don’t want to risk, most of them take their decision based on what the market tells them to do. This decision comes along with the fact that passion doesn’t count when buying a car (for a big part of population). Of course, I am not saying that passion has the same meaning for everybody. For example, there are people who enjoy driving a trailer. So, if rationalism is the main driver for the majority of population buying a car, then it is quite understandable VW success.

In conclusion I’m going to use a basic example to illustrate what I’m saying and give my personal opinion. I love to have a good steak. It is always nice to eat it when it is properly cooked. It is also an excellent plate, which results into a highly nutritive meal. No one (non-vegetarian) would deny a delicious piece of tenderloin or a T-bone steak. I do also love to eat other things and specially new things. One of my pleasures in life is to try new plates, new flavors. It is exciting to taste new recipes as your tongue has fun with other flavors. For me, VW and Fiat are the steak and the new dishes. Sure, is good to have the steak as you won’t probably have problems with it and you’ll be properly fed. But, I am more into the idea of trying new things no matter the result. Of course, I must eat to survive and I love the steak. However my passion for cars can be explained by the cook that always prepares the best steak, and the cook that always tries new  ingredients, new plates. I like the steak. But I love new plates. With cars I’m more passionate than rational, and that explains all.

*Information for January 2013


27 thoughts on “Passion or Reasonableness?

  1. There’s no reason why you can’t have a good looking car that is properly built. After 2 weeks with my brand new Giulietta, I still can’t get over the number of rattles that it has in the dash and passenger door (not covered by the warranty in Australia); how loud the interior becomes on coarse road surfaces; and how quality control didn’t pick up on a speaker that has a clear and distinct vibration. 27 years ago I accepted this sort of stuff in my Alfasud, but now it’s just plain embarrassing how poorly built Alfas continue to be. Seriously, Fiat has cocked up everything with Alfa since taking it over and demonstrated it is incapable of taking Alfa to the mid level, let alone the laughable objective Marchionne has of it moving into the premium market without it even being recognised by the market as being a top quality mid tier brand. Passion is all that’s left when there is no substance!


    • I’m sad to hear that. As you say there is no reason to keep having this kind of problems. There is still a long way to go in terms of quality, and problems as you have shouldn’t continue to happen if Alfa wants to become a real threat to Germans. Yes, passion must include a hard and good job, otherwise is useless for final consumer. If I am a fan of the group it doesn’t mean I deny that this happens. This blog is for this: to talk about everything (good and bad), always looking to let them know how to improve if they really want to succeed.


      • I am a fan of what the group says it wants to do, but invariably its execution is poor. I really don’t understand why they continue to miss the mark but such a massive amount. It’s obvious that what Italian car buyers want in cars is at odds with the majority of the motoring world, so the Fiat Auto executive spending large amounts of time out of their sheltered environment in Italy would be a big start (also not treating RHD markets as second class citizens when it comes to pedal placement and footwell space). Alfa will not be successful in the US if they serve up cars that are unsuited to the tastes of the market. For example, what sort of fools introduce the Dodge Dart without a traditional auto transmission to a market that is almost exclusively auto transmission, then despair at the poor sales? Fiat Auto Group’s cock ups aren’t just one offs, it seems to be an endless stream of ill thought out products and questionable execution which is contributing to its ongoing loss of market share. Anyway, despite my grievances with my new Giulietta, I still like to drive it (albeit with the radio loud enough to hide the rattles but still low enough so as not to have the right rear speaker vibration drive me nuts).


  2. Volkswagon in the end builds German Fiats. I mean a real Volkswagon was that horrible beatle that Italians must of laughed at int 1930’s,40’s,50’s,60’s. Bertone designed Golfs, which where just a rip off of the Fiat 127/128, actually most car companies in the world have ripped off Fiat. First mass produced transverse motor & transaxle (The new Mini has more in common with Fiat than the Old Mini) Fiat. First Mass produced twin cams, timing belts, Common rail diesels, etc. etc. and these are only the best known innovations, and thats Fiat alone. , not counting the rest of Italian automotive industry. The market is wrong, most people are not car enthuasists, and don’t care. Today Volkswagen, tomorrow hyundai, But Fiat Group & Italy will always be top of the car world, at least to people who understand cars, & history.


    • The original Golf was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, not Bertone. Giugiaro designed a number of other VWs and Audis over the years, and Italdesign is now part of VW Group.


  3. And Latin culture has become misnomer. The Romans where a Latin culture, Europe as a whole comes from Latin culture, as it comes from Greek culture. Germany is just as latin as Italy is now, if they still lived like barbarins & vikings, they wouldn’t be building cars. And here in North America Italians are not considered Latins, and neither the Portugese, French & maybe even the Spaniards or any body from Europe.


  4. I am surprised at Varela’s rattles with the Giulietta. My 159 is now over 5 years old and still is rattle free. Also the owners of the Giuliettas in my country Sri Lanka have not had any such trouble. I am also on the UK Alfa club forum and have not noticed complaints about rattles. So I’m wondering if this is an isolated case? Anyway getting back to the topic, I agree that Fiat needs a massive Marketing overhaul. Did they ever have Marketing before? I think since Germans continue to make clinically efficient yet boring cars there is a big opportunity for efficient but interesting cars. It’s just that it has to be marketed properly. Everyone – buyers, motoring press etc now believes that German is best. This did not happen by accident. It was carefully crafted by the Germans. Fiat needs to learn from this and have a cohesive and comprehensive marketing strategy to re-teach everyone that Italian is better! It won’t be easy but it’s not impossible.


    • Maybe my rattles are not common, but I’m not the only one as a few of the Alfisti on the Alfaowners forum in the UK have expressed the same issues. Now, in terms of boring cars etc, I assure you that a sexy and sensuous car like the Giulietta would sell by the hundreds of thousands if it was anywhere near the top of the segment in engineering and build quality. Alfa sales in Europe are plummeting, why? The Giulietta and Mito are following the well worn path of the 156 and 147. Ironically, my Alfa dealer said the 159 was the model they sold heaps of, and now it’s discontinued. Fiat Auto problems are more than just marketing nous, it’s an ingrained culture of the organisation to class car buyers as lacking class or taste if they don’t buy their products. Sadly, over the years there are plenty of Italian car enthusiasts that display the same mentality and lose sight of the fact that the buyer is always right – whether you like it or not, and you need to make cars that resonate with the market.
      I don’t believe that Alfa is ever going to sell anywhere near the numbers of VW, only because the form/style of its cars are always going to led to a less practical more compromised vehicle. However, Alfas are currently not selling in the numbers they need to because their engineering and construction do not surpass the mainstream products produced by VW, let alone the higher tier brands of Mercedes, Audi or BMW. If the 4C turns out to be anywhere near what Marchionne keeps espousing, maybe Alfa will one day regain its glory days from a distant past. However, Marchionne’s declarations that previous products are at the pointy end of the field have sadly proven to be way off beam.
      I dearly want Alfa to be successful and survive, but sadly since Marchionne has been at the helm of Fiat Auto, it’s coincided with Alfa’s sales dropping to historic lows and a product line that numbers 2 models. I’m not deluded enough to believe he has a plan to extricate Alfa from the hole he put it in. Sorry. I’m not a Marchionne fan because cars that have helped Fiat, Chrysler (500, Grand Cherokee, 300) were not developed under his dictatorship.
      By the way Juan Felipe, I appreciate the level of research that you undertake, as well as your balanced views. It’s refreshing. Hopefully, one day your talents may be noticed by Fiat Auto.


      • Hi Varela,, it’s interesting to see more opinions in this blog and I must say thanks to Juan for this nice platform…regarding your Giulietta and your rattles I can confirm that in my Alfa 147 there are ruttles too, but in 7 years my Alfa never let me by foot. Before my Alfa I had 2 Audis and it’s right, they were perfect made especially in the interior but they left me more times alone with a lot of stress then… so the question is, what is more important for you? Have a better made interior but less reliable engine or maybe some ruttles but the engine is a great work of art with passion and is reliable. And my experiance was confirmed by my colleagues with german cars too…nice interior but very expensive problems with their engines on their Q7, A6, A3 etc and with BMW and Mercedes cars is the same story. So I’m sad that you have problems with your Giulietta, because I love this car and it will be my next car, but I think this should be a problem that your dealer could solve… Hope you will have a lot of fun with your car in future….best regards from germany, Cris


      • I can agree with you on the Marchionne issue.
        I can belive the building quality issues that you pointed too.
        But when you say that Alfa engeneering is not on par even with VW, not to say Audi, Bmw, I cannot disagree more.
        Alfa has always been the leader in engeneering and even the last Giulietta (the first Fiat-developed Alfa, indeed) is at least on par with the germans. Well, engeneering is the thing that comes first, previous to the assembly thing. It is the conceptions, designs and details, THE Project itself developed until the production model. The assembly is another thing. You can have well engineered cars that are bad assembled.


  5. Well you’ll find problems with all brands. The thing is that Alfa wants to grow up and become global, so its problems should be less than the ones of its competitors. I also have a friend driving a MiTo in Colombia and he is really happy with the car and aftermarket service. I agree with you: Fiat needs more and better marketing. They make great cars but sometimes they don’t know how to sell them. I’m glad you drive the beautiful 159 in Sri Lanka, bye!


  6. I think this article is bs. Because every alfista or fiatista will say that yeah maybe their car has poor build quality but it has soul. That is a stupid argument in my point of view. People want reliable, economical and well built car. And they want to get what they payed for (most bang for buck). People buy VW, Audi, Škoda, BMW because they make good, reliable, desirable, well built cars. Why people don`t buy fiat group cars? Well for starters they are all out of date. They all have to thirsty engines, in every segment fiat has among the worst CO2 outputs of all brands. The giulietta, delta and bravo are worse then the focus, megane, golf, leon etc. The punto is worst then clio or polo. The panda and 500 are worst than the up, citigo, mi (bluemotion package). Why in the world can renaulte make a diesel 88g/km co2 Clio, and fiat makes a 110 g/km co2 panda! Panda is a much smaller car. Where is the multiair technology in diesel engines? Where is the twinair diesel? VW is making a two cyl diesel for the VW up. Second is fiats retail program, they have one of the worst retailers period! Waranty? Only 2 years in Croatia. I have a new fiat panda. And yes it is a better car overal then the up. BUT! If i didnt like the pandas interior, and extra ride hight and very cheap blue and me option the vw is a better option. Why? Because it is a better city car. A city car has to have the bare esentials and be the most economical for the least amount of money you spend on it. The vw up does that. It is on average one or two l/100km more efficient. And my panda rattles like crazy after owning it only 5 months. I had the boot mechanisam problem, the dashbord discoloring problem- and the dashbord was discoloured at shipment, not after a while, the car even came with wrong calibrated tires so it would woble at 70 km/h so i had to go to the dealers to fix it. It had a weird bruuum noise when it operated at 3000-4000 rpm, it tourned out that the AC hose was loose and rattled. We are talking about a one day old car here!! I hope that fiat manages to suceed but they are two years behind the competition alredy. And dont get me startet on hybrid vehicles or EVs (yeah i know they have the 500e but that is just a marketing stunt)


    • Hi Damir, what you are writing is very strange because the facts are saying someting else….Fiat-Group is in Europe number 1 regarding less CO2 output. The Fiat 500 is selling double than the VWup and even the Fiat panda is selling 60% more than the VWup, so there must be a reason why people buy much more Fiats than VW cars (small-cars segment). Regarding my experience and from my colleagues (we have a big company fleet with almost german cars) we can only say that german cars are not reliable, they are only living from hearsay,because the facts are saying something else (JD-Power-reports where VW cars are at last positions or ADAC-Statistik where in smaller segments german cars are in the average or even in the last 1/3) You can see their reliability at the moment in china too, where they must take back 350.000 dsg gearing boxes and this only after the government forced them, because as usual VW doesnt want to admit a problem… So I think your problem and opinion is very subjective, because the facts are saying someting else, but I hope that you will have more fortune in future with your Panda, because my sister has one and she is very happy with it after having a Polo and a lot of trouble with the unreliable engine….best regards. Cris


      • Fiat has the lowest co2 output because it sells only small cars, but fiat has among the worst co2 per hp. Which means that their engines are not economical, their (small) cars are. As for the high selling panda. If you dont calculate in italy the panda is not quite that big of a sucess.


      • One factor for the 500/Panda vs Up/Citigo/Mii sales comparison is that VW’s factory capacity in Slovakia is maxed out and they can’t build more cars. Whether they could sell more (if they expanded capacity) is different question, and I don’t have the answer to that one.


  7. Some people here either hate FGA but pretend to be fans or are mis-informed badly.
    I checked Autocar magazine data-
    Giulietta MA – 170bhp, 134g/km and 48.7 MPG
    Golf TSI – 160bhp, 138g/km and 44.8 MPG

    Giulietta 2.0 JTDM2 TCT – 140bhp, 119g/km and 62.8MPG
    Golf 2.0 TDI DSG – 140bhp, 138g/km and 58.9MPG

    Unless Autocar has made mistakes the more efficient engines are made by FGA.


  8. Hi argt21, I can confirm what you say…another example, Fiat 500 85hp twinair 92g/km, VWup 75hp 108g/km ! Fiat Punto 69hp 126g/km, VW Polo 70hp 128g/km ! So I don’t know where Damir has his data, but they are totally wrong…


  9. I can’t find the data now but i remember reading that fiat had among the worst co2 per hp, and BMW had one of the best co2 per hp.
    As for the autocar data..
    VW golf – 2.0 TDI 150 hp – 106g/km

    Opel astra -1.7 diesel- 110 hp- 99g/km
    Ford Focus- 1.6 TDCI- 105 hp- 88g/km
    Giulietta – 1.6 jtd- 105 hp- 114 g/km

    Renault clio- 1.5 DCI- 90 hp- 83 g/km
    Fiat punto – 1.3 MTJ- 85 hp- 90 g/km
    Ford Fiesta – 1.6 TDCI- 95 hp – 88g/km

    As for the panda:

    Fiat panda- 1.2 69 hp- 120 g/km
    Fiat panda- 1.3 mjt 75 hp- 104g/km
    Fiat panda- 0.9 twinair 85 hp- 99g/km
    Renault twingo 1.2 TCE 75hp- 119 g/km
    Renault twingo 1.5 DCI 75hp – 90g/km

    citroen c1 1.0 68 hp- 99g/km

    vw up 1.0 75 hp bluemotion – 98g/km

    I know that i read the data quite a while a go (maybe 2 years) and things have changed after fiat introduced the twinair engine and multiair technology. And you have to look what the competition offers in the same price point. Every car is less expensive for the amount of co2 emissions, ok you have the twinair engine but thay all have a 1000 euro or more premium on the base model. But ok maybe i am wrong on this part, but what about other things i have said? The problems with my panda? And yeah im not here to hate i just think im realistic.


  10. Hi Damir, as I said, we have a Panda too in our family and totally happy with it, zero problems. I don’t say that there are never problems with Fiats but my opinion is that you can find everywhere problems, it doesn’t matter which label you take. Our experience is that we have had a lot of problems with VW-group cars. They are expensive when you buy them, the engine is very unreliable and then it’s very expensive when you bring VW cars to the dealers to repair them…so for us (me and my family+friends+colleagues) there is no reason anymore to buy VW-cars. Our italian cars are not so expensive when you buy them, they are also cheaper in the maintenence and (our experience ) they are more reliable, various statistics are confirming this (german-ADAC-Statistik for example or AUTO-Bild Statistik). Maybe you have received a monday car, that is sad, but my opinion is that untill Marchionne is in the company the quality is much better than in the past and Fiat has closed to the most competitors and Fiat has overtaken a lot of competitors…but everybody makes his own experience. Regards, Cris


  11. You’re pretty much spot on here, Juan Felipe. Which again begs the question, why do some people who claim (read: pretend) to be Alfisti, want Volkswagen to take over Alfa Romeo?


  12. So I had my first (recent) taste of passion, with a Fiat 500 rental from National yesterday. It’s the Popular model, with an automatic gearbox and alloy wheels.

    Performance would probably be OK but the 500’s automatic sucks all the fun out of driving a small car. The handling was good considering the base suspension and tires, but this gearbox is just awful in a 101 hp car.

    Inside, the styling was passionate, I think. The dashboard and seats looked good; materials were cheap but it’s not unexpected in an inexpensive car. But the ergonomics were really not good. Starting from window switches in the centre console, to pushbuttons for radio volume and tuning … and the worst of all, the concentric gauge console. A very bright electroluminescent display shows time, odometer, coolan temperature and various other bits of information. Around it, there are a tachometer and speedometer, but the readability is very poor, given the graphics and the tiny bit of needle that is visible. For me personally, the gauges would be enough to decide against the 500.

    Now, I have never even sat in an Up! so I have no point of comparison but really the 500 interior needs some work to be usable and not just “passionate”.


  13. Pingback: The first year of ‘Fiat Group’s World’ | Fiat Group's World

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