Fiat gets ready to remove the Fullback from its line up. With almost 22,000 units sold since April 2016, the midsize pickup joins the long flops list of FCA. Unlike the successful Fiat Strada and Toro, the Fullback never found a place in the market. There are several reasons for this sad end.
A bad start
Fiat is globally known for its small cars. Therefore any attempt to bring a big Fiat is always a tough job. As I said in a post in December 2015, it was unlikely that the Fiat Fullback would change that perception. It is a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi L200 and breaks with most of Fiat’s DNA.
The Fullback lack of personality since the beginning. It was due to control a decent part of the pickup market in EMEA markets, but due to the lack of awareness among consumers in the Middle East towards Fiat brand, and the reputation issues in Europe, the Fullback was an epic fail from the early start.
Fiat sold around 6,200 units during the first twelve months in the market, while its Japanese and American competitors were quite ahead. The global volume increased to 10,000 units in the following twelve months, and despite the strong percentage growth, the Fullback was a marginal product within FCA global results.
Who would buy it?
Soon the rapid growth vanished. As it happens to most of the vehicles of the group, the sales of the Fullback started to fall very early. During the last 12 months (Apr/18-Mar/19), the brand sold around 5,500 units, or 45% less than during the previous 12 months.
One of the reasons of this dramatic drop is the strong position of its competitors. The midsize pickup segment has been always controlled by the Japanese makers and Ford. They are global players that have been in the business for decades. Fiat decided to join the market by only changing the badge of an existing model.
Who would buy the Fiat Fullback instead of its sibling the Mitsubishi L200 or a Toyota, Ford or Nissan? The Fullback had little to expect as it never offered anything different from its popular rivals. Something similar happens to the Renault Alaskan, based on the Nissan Frontier.
Europe is not a pickup market
These pickups are mostly popular in South East Asia, where Thailand is the main production hub. In Europe, they are still far from being popular. After the good start in 2018, full year sales totaled 184,000 units last year, up by only 7.8%. These vehicles counted for 8.8% of total LCV sales in Europe.
The pickups are not popular in Europe. In 2018, while their sales counted for 17% in USA-Canada total vehicle sales, their volume represented only 1% of total in Europe (including passenger cars and LCV). Their penetration in Europe is also very different from their popularity in Latin America and South East Asia-Pacific, where they contolled 13% and 17% of the market respectively.
The next pickups of the group
Despite this new flop, the pickups are still a key segment for FCA. It was along with SUV, the only segment to post a sales growth in 2018, with volume up by 4% to 798,500 units. Therefore, the pickups counted for 17% of FCA global sales in 2018, the second largest segment behind SUVs.
Right now the group is working on a new small pickup for Brazil, which is due to replace the popular Fiat Strada. This vehicle is expected to be hit the market in 2020. Meanwhile, Mike Manley confirmed that the company is still working on the midsize pickup for Ram. The Ranger rival should arrive in 2022, as the group is still struggling to find a suitable platform.
Source: FGW database, OICA, JATO, Autonews
I could never understand why this was made, surely with the RAM brand, it would have been far more prudent to get these to become a World brand, including bagging the replacements for the Toro as a RAM.
It is so sad to see Fiat and most of the FCA brands (Alfa Romeo, Maserati and should I even mention Lancia, Dodge, Chrysler) on a downward spiral across the globe. The only brands having hopes are Jeep, RAM and Ferrari. Me being from India, I always hoped that FIAT would fightback with a strong lineup of small cars in India. The hopes of FIAT introducing the Panda (and its cross derivatives), Tipo range, Argo etc. remained only hopes. Alongwith these and an updated Punto, Palio range, India could have become something similar to the Brazilian market. Fiat never played it right with delayed product launches, bad market positioning. The labour strike Fiat had during the introduction of Uno is, I feel, the biggest reason for Fiat’s failure. They lost almost all of the 2,90,000 paid bookings in 1996-97 for the Uno and along with it the trust of millions of Indians.
You just have to see the numbers that Suzuki (Maruti) and Hyundai manage and wonder what could have been.
I still think Fiat should puts one year of good development in a small SUV instead of a small Jeep. A small Jeep would bring Jeep brand downmarket and affect premium offerings like the Compass advsrsely. Along with the small Fiat SUV, a thoroughly updated Punto and a Panda sized offering would still give FIAT something instead of exiting the market completely.