Editor’s Notice: This week, Peter takes on FIAT and the newest “brilliance” pouring forth from its CEO, Olivier Francois. In On The Table, we take a look at the beautiful Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa that’s coming to public sale subsequent month at Sotheby’s. We additionally preview Jeep’s first international battery-electric automobile (BEV), the all-new, all-electric premium Jeep Wagoneer S (yawn). And our AE Music of the Week is “Why” by Annie Lennox. In Fumes, we carry you Peter’s “The Muscle Boys” – when large block V8s dominated the racing world. And eventually, in The Line, we carry you the newest IMSA outcomes from the Roar Earlier than the 24 at Daytona. Get pleasure from! -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo 

Detroit. It wouldn’t be the auto biz, at the least because it’s practiced right here, with out an look by Olivier “I’m a genius simply ask me” Francois, the person who carries the weighty title CEO of FIAT and international chief advertising officer of Stellantis. In any case, Francois has distinguished himself – at the least intermittently – with some memorable Tremendous Bowl spots, the perfect of the bunch being “Farmer” for Ram truck from 2013, which used the long-lasting phrases and voice of Paul Harvey. It was, fairly merely, the perfect automotive industrial of the previous decade, and it did wonders for the Ram truck model and likewise pumped up Francois’s already appreciable ego.  

Francois fancies himself as a musical genius as nicely, and he loves hanging round with celebrities, considering the rub-off makes him a star too. It doesn’t, as a result of celebrities – musical or in any other case – love the cash firstly, and Francois will get to name them “pal” throughout and after their collaborations, which is one thing that he clearly craves. I’d finest describe Francois because the “King of Borrowed Curiosity,” as he orchestrates current inventive to go well with his sensibilities and undertaking no matter model he’s taking note of in the mean time.   

And Francois’s model of the second is the semi-iconic (at the least in case your automotive taste runs Italian), all the time forlorn and woefully pathetic FIAT – the automobile firm that has loved intermittent curiosity on this market, however that has remained eminently forgettable all through its newest renaissance. Keep in mind when The Bombastic One (aka Sergio) promised sellers that FIAT would cleared the path to riches for them whereas dangling Alfa Romeo franchises as a reward for a job nicely achieved? Yeah, no person else does both, besides after all, these sellers who’re nonetheless smarting from pissing away actual cash on brick and mortar for FIAT dealerships that turned out to be a monumentally silly funding. 

FIAT is Francois’s newest vainness undertaking, and this simply in and in case you’re questioning: the whole lot he includes himself in is an arrogance undertaking. In any case, if it isn’t about him, he actually has zero curiosity in it. On this case, Francois thinks that his laying of his palms on the FIAT model will instantly push the model to “buzz” standing, and his fame will develop even bigger, at the least in his thoughts anyway. 

And what’s the FIAT model bringing to the desk? A reimagined and fully-electric 500, which is rechristened because the 500e, “100% electrical, 100% Italian,” in accordance with Stellantis PR minions. The little 500e is claimed to weigh 3,000 lbs. and have a 149-mile vary. The 500e is a part of the “Dare Ahead 2030” that Stellantis is touting, which tasks 50 % in EV gross sales in North America by 2030, and 100% in EV gross sales in Europe by 2030. (That each one sounds nicely and good, simply don’t plan on making any inroads within the Chicago market, or wherever else the place the thermometer will get close to zero.) 

On paper, the 500e might make sense to some. In any case, its sticker value will probably be $32,500, and as I’ve written repeatedly, affordability is the most essential issue out there now and it’ll proceed to be going ahead. The producers who perceive which are going to achieve success. Sadly, within the 500e’s case, it may solely be thought of a 3rd or fourth automobile for many shoppers as a result of its miniscule dimension. There will probably be exceptions after all, particularly for the patron who doesn’t want vary and solely wants a automobile every now and then. Then it would simply exercise positive. However actuality means that these consumers will probably be few and much between. 

However, and there’s all the time a however in relation to Francois, he’s relying on his advertising genius to create an otherworldly buzz for the 500e, which is not any shock because it has been his “M.O.” since Day One. His large concept? FIAT will do “drops” of the 500e like Nike does shoe releases. In fact, pushing $150.00 footwear is so much completely different than attempting to create myriad particular editions of a automobile that most individuals can be onerous pressed to think about to start with. The naiveté of this plan is obvious as day to everybody besides Francois, after all. However since he has pronounced it as the trail to advertising success for the FIAT model going ahead, his boot-licking minions don’t have any alternative however to pronounce it “good” as nicely, even when they’re all laughing on the within.  

Make no mistake, FIAT as a model is a whole afterthought within the North American market. Francois and his minions will try to make some noise, however it is going to be filled with sound and fury signifying nothing. Sure, they could acquire some gross sales within the “smile states” however past that, this effort will probably be yet one more nonstarter for a model that doesn’t belong right here. As a matter of reality, FIAT is already AE’s Reply to the Query that Completely No One is Asking for 2024, and we don’t count on that to vary, even when it’s only January. 

However Francois will tout its success anyway, because the gross sales hover round negligible, as a result of in spite of everything, the whole lot he touches turns to gold, didn’t you recognize? Simply don’t look too deep after the very fact since you’ll swear you’re studying a brand new chapter of The Emperor’s New Garments.  

And that’s the Excessive-Octane Reality for this week. 

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