Fiat Hits a Road Bump, But Still Cruising in New York

2012 fiat 500 Fiat Hits a Road Bump, But Still Cruising in New York

Right at home. (Fiat)

Fiat’s return to America has been a rougher ride than expected. After initial plans to sell more than 50,000 of the Fiat 500 last year, the Italian car maker failed to move even 20,000 “units,” as they call vehicles in the industry. NPR blamed a number of factors on Morning Edition today, from a slow growth in dealerships to bad ads.

Since The Observer took a spin in the Cinquecento back in August, and anointed it New York’s new It car, we were curious to find out how the car was fairing in our fair city since then. Fairly well, it turns out.“Locally, sales have been quite healthy,” Caleb Denis, dealership manager at Fiat of Manhattan told The Observer. “I can’t speak for things nationally, but we’ve done very well. It’s a city car, and people are definitely integrating it into their way of life. The popularity shows.”

Indeed, we have spotted a number of Fiats in the wild since first encountering them over the summer, but they still seem to be out numbered by the omnipresent Mini. The company has tried to argue that it is outselling the British-German compact. Sales have also grown 44 percent over the course of the year, so there does seem to be some momentum.

The car is selling well in Brooklyn, too, according to Lou Gasparini, the sales manager at Giufre Fiat in Bay Ridge. “We’ve gotten a lot of different buyers, primarily from Brooklyn, but I’m also getting phone calls from Massachusetts, from Rhode Island,” he said. “The car is getting some good buzz. If people are willing to drive a long way to get it, that’s a good thing.”

At the same time, what does it say that there are no dealerships up north?

Mr. Denis said that his dealership had sold 279 cars while Mr. Gasparini declined to say how many he had done. That is but a fraction of the national fleet, but considering Fiat of Manhattan also had the country’s top selling salesman, this may just be the place to hop a red sauce rocket. After all, the Fiat 500 is good enough for Andre Balazs, isn’t it good enough for everybody?

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC