Fiat had ambitious plans for its 500 minicar in the United States. Convinced that Americans would would embrace the 500 in the same way they’ve embraced other Italian imports, like pasta and gelato, Fiat
turned out to be overly confident in the charms of the diminutive urban commuter.
With 2011 in the record books, The Car Connection
reports that Chrysler sold just shy of 20,000 Fiat 500s here last year. That’s less than half of the 50,000 units expected, which has caused the automaker to ponder if the 500 in its current form is right for the U.S. market.
To boost sales, Fiat is planning a five-door wagon version of the 500, sized up to American proportions. While the new model will be built on the Fiat 500
platform, don’t expect it to be a sized-up version of the Italian classic, especially since Fiat is referring to it as a “related” model.
Details about the car are still sketchy, but Bloomberg
reports that the five-door wagon will debut at March’s Geneva Motor Show
. It’s expected to go on sale in Europe first, with inventory hitting the United States in early 2013.
Despite having just three products in its catalog (the Fiat 500, the 500 Cabrio
and the 500 Abarth
), Fiat still expects to sell around 25,000 cars in the United States this year. That would put the first full year sales of the Fiat 500 on par with the MINI Cooper, which sold just under 25,000 units in its first full year on the market.
If Fiat dealers can weather a lean 2012, the product picture should improve in 2013. In addition to the new 500-based wagon, Fiat dealers are expected to begin selling Alfa Romeo models by the end of 2013.