Will FIAT ever Return To N. America?

FIAT is one of the world’s oldest carmakers. Because gasoline has always been expensive in Italy, FIAT has made cars with small engines and good handling-I drove a FIAT “PALIO” model in Brazil, and I liked it. Seemed like a well-handling car, with good performance (that belied the 1.1 liter engine). Anyway, such a car would have a good reception in the USA, now that gas is getting so expensive. I read that GM had some discussion with FIAT-any chance that FIAT might come bacK? I think they left the USA back around 1890 or so…

FIAT is very well present in SOUTH America where it normally features engines much larger than in Europe. A FIAT Uno normally comes with 1.3 and 1.6 engines in SA as opposed to 1 liter engines in Europe, I believe. Maybe those could be more “palatable” to the American tastes.

All the automotive journals seem to indicate that this is indeed the case, Fiat already has come back to NA, in the form of Maserati, and Ferrari has always been here. There’s a lot of talk of bringing over at least a few Alfa Romeo models, which I think would be great, and even better if they bring over some of their city cars like the upcoming new pure-sex-on-wheels Cinquecento, which I’ve always dreamed of owning. NA has had a dearth of affordable Italian cars for too long IMO.

They will have to overcome the acronym Fix It Again, Tony.

One reason is because importing has a lot of factors that aren’t immediately recognizeable. Lots of good cars won’t make it here because of EPA, DOT, and a few other alphabet organizations that I’m not aware of. Oh, and customs. They have to be certified for export to the US, meaning silly things like speedometers that read in MPH, and “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” etc. In total the requirements would add considerable expense.

I think they might be able to make those already :wink:

I’m just sayin’. They can’t import cars with speedometers indicating kilometers.

And I’m just saying, that they don’t import them like that to Britain, either…

Which is kind of a larger point in opposition to yours, in that no car firm of that size is unfamiliar with having to modify a product to suit the requirements (and preferences) of specific markets.

At least in the U.S., they can keep the steering wheel on the same side.

Problem: crashworthiness. Cars sold here have to pass certain crashworthiness tests. If the car doesn’t pass, it’ll have to be modified until it does…which may not be worth the trouble. In that case, Fiat would probably design a new car from scratch for the American market (likely selling it in Europe as well). Designing a new car model with no guarantee that it would be well recieved in the American market would be very risky for Fiat; it’s cars have never really been held in high esteem here (see Musicat’s comment), so selling enough to make it worthwhile might not be possible.

It’s not just Fiat’s problem. Periodically, you see articles about Japanese cars that are very small, lightweight, and get a zillion miles per gallon. Why aren’t they sold here? Yeah, I know, Americans aren’t likely to want such tiny cars in enough volume to make it worthwhile to import them anyway, but the larger issue is the fact that such cars would never be able to pass crash tests here.

No intent to imply anything of the sort, only that these requirements add considerably to the expense of importation, which is my point, nothing whatsoever to with any firms familiarity with market requirements.

Malienations point about crashworthiness is an interesting one - I once owned, regrettably, a Nissan Sentra, which having been sold here in the US presumably met all crash worthiness requirements. I also owned, while stationed overseas, a BMW 3 series of the same model year as the Sentra. Obviously the Sentra was a cheaper “clone” of the BMW. However, when I inquired about shipping the BMW back, I found it is next to impossible on many different fronts, to ship or register a non-export version to the US. It is possible, but only after extensive modification, customs duties and the like. As far as crashworthiness, I have no doubt that the BMW was much preferable.

Well, I don’t think a Sentra is necessarily a clone of the BMW 3 series or a really fair comparison, but I do think that the “crashworthiness” test isn’t really any test of safety in a crash, but more an indirect trade barrier imposed against imported cars. The high cost of the actual testing itself seems to be enough of a turnoff that lots of foriegn car models will never get to the US unless they were sure to recoup their costs, and limited run sports cars almost never sell enough to justify the expense, regardless of how objectively “safe” they are.

I hold before you, as an example, the various models of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, which cannot be imported to Canada soley due to the fact that their front mounted intercoolers are deemed “unsafe” by the Canadian goverment. Are they really “unsafe” in any objective comparison with other, similar cars? I doubt it, seeing as how the same car is sold in every other country in the world including the US, but it sure helps to distort the Canadian car market.

It’s not like crash tests are unknown in Europe - a high EuroNCAP rating of a car is often used as a major feature in advertising. IIRC, the European system places a greater emphasis on front impact safety, while the American one on side impacts. So the above comments are probably correct in that designing a car to perform well in both tests is a much greater challenge than to perform well in one or the other alone.

Exactly, the Sentra was built like a tin-can and deemed safe, but the BMW was somehow “unsafe”, but it had very heavy doors among other things, and much better brakes, and on and on. It was a fun car to drive, and cheap too.

I think it’s unlikely. This is my take on it, but I believe they didn’t make it the last time they tried because they didn’t have anything like a proper dealer network. Their cars were sold out of lawnmower/home garden centers, farm tractor lots, etc. I had a 1966 1500 S back in 1974. To get it fixed I had to go to the dealer, an International Harvester franchise. Ten bays in the back, nine (9) for the International Harvester Bookmobiles, trucks, and tractors, and one (1) for Fiats. Only one (1) mechanic there worked on Fiats. He was a good mechanic, he was an Italian, all the way from Italy, but you had to wait until he could get around to working on your car. You’d also have to wait a long time if you needed to order FIAT parts.

Unless Fiat changes its ergonomics for the U.S. market, I don’t think their cars will ever do as well here as most of the other imports. I’m referring to the “Bravura” driving position that puts the steering wheel far away from you and the floor pedals too close. This is O.K to go across town and other short trips, but travel a few hours on an interstate with your leg bent up to work the accelerator (cruise control should be well worth the cost on any Italian car) while your arms are going to sleep from holding them out fully extended to hold the wheel. Their controls for lights and wipers were weird too on my old Fiat, I remember lots of little stalks on the steering wheel controlling this and that.

I liked my old Fiat, but I can’t see Fiat ever competing successfully with the Japanese and Korean imports who have already established themselves into the U.S. automobile market.

Well since domestic cars have to meet the same standards, how can crashworthiness / crash standards be considered a “trade barrier”? :confused:
Do you have a cite that it is just the intercooler, and its location that is keeping the Evo out of Canada?

Getting back to the OP, FIAT would face several hurdles to re-enter the American market. In no particular order:
[li]Build a dealer network. This won’t be as easy at it sounds. The good dealers probably won’t be interested, and the marginal dealers are not the ones they would want.[/li][li]Establish a parts distribution network [/li][li]Train technicians[/li][li]Certify their cars for smog[/li][li]Certify their cars for crash safety[/li][li]Overcome the “Fix IT Again Tony” / Febile Italin Atempt at Transportation" image[/li][/ul]

Ahh, we might be onto something here. The correct driving position on an Autostrada is with the accelerator flat to the floor as much as possible :wink:

What I mean is that if the maker already sells the car in another country, there is a barrier to entry when it comes to the US (or really any other country) because it must conduct crash testing all over again, as I understand crash testing from other countries doesn’t count, even if the actual tests were objectively very similar. It’s not a HUGE barrier, but it’s one more thing that makes the importation of low-volume cars un-profitable.


Not under that name as long as there are any Americans still alive who owned FIATs in the 1960s-80s. My god, Renault has a better reputation!

A lot of cars in that era tended to rust. But with adequate care, the need not. As for reliability, ‘Fix It Again, Tony’ is an easy joke. British cars also had a reputation of being unreliable. ‘Ford’ was said to mean either ‘Found On Road, Dead’ or "F*cked On Race Day’. ISTM that cars 30 or 40 years ago were just not as reliable as modern cars. I think that some makers’ reputations are not really deserved. As I’ve said before, I joke as much as anyone about Lucas electrics. But having owned three MGBs in the past, I can tell you the reputation is largely undeserved (in my experience). Now-classic cars needed regular maintenance even when new. And when I was a kid it seems people tended to buy new cars more often. Nowadays it’s not uncommon for someone to put a couple-hundred thousand miles on his car. ‘Back in the day’, going from childhood memory, a car was pretty much worn out after 100K miles. Then as now, a regularly maintained car could go a long way. But most people I know are very lax about such things as tune ups and oil changes – let alone more intensive/expensive maintenance.

So combine a car that’s not expected to last more than 100,000 miles with lax maintenance and old technology, and the car is going to break. Especially if an owner has neglected maintenance and then sold it cheaply to someone who cannot or will not afford to maintain it. It just keeps going downhill.

FWIW I see a surprising number of Fiat 124s in Northern Washington compared to similar cars like MGBs. Does this mean that Fiats are better than MGs? Or is it just that the Fiat owners up there take care of their cars and enjoy them?

Will Fiat come back? Someone in a thread a few months ago said he’d heard that they will, starting with Maserati. (Incidentally, I said I’d seen ‘Bimotas’ in that thread. I meant to say ‘Biturbos’. Bimota was a motorcycle.) In spite of the popularity of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, there don’t seem to be many roadsters on the market. Americans like power, and classic sports cars/roadsters like the Fiat 124, Alfa Romeo Spyder, and MGB might not do well nowadays. But there are very efficient Fiat subcompacts. Now that people are finally having a second look at their SUVs, and with offerings such as the Toyota Yaris and the Smart Car, and with improvements in longevity and reliability in cars in general, the time may be ripe for Fiat to bring over a new, high gas mileage car. People may buy such a car simply to be different.

Would I buy a fiat if they were imported? Probably not. I have more vehicles than I need as it is. But if I were looking for a small efficient car, and if Fiats were available, I’d certainly take a look.