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Innovation

Will Fiat's wagon capture hearts and minds?

Fiat plans to roll out a wagon version of its 500 model to the North American market, where surprisingly few consumers have connected with the iconic design of the 500 subcompact.

Fiat's 500, a revival of the brand's iconic wee automobile, hasn't attracted nearly as many U.S. drivers as Fiat hoped. The company hoped to sell around 50,000 in North America during its first year in this market but landed only 26,000.

It's been tweaking the painfully cute subcompact, offering a signature Gucci edition and more recently trying to man up the ride with the dark-and-mysterious 500 Abarth. But next year Fiat will bring a larger, five-door wagon version of the 500 to the U.S. market, according to Olivier Francois, Chrysler's chief marketing officer and global chief of the Fiat brand.

Fiat will unveil the model at the Geneva Auto Show this coming March.

The new, roomier model will compete with BMW's Mini Clubman and, more directly, with the five-door Countryman Mini Wagon.

Olivier Francois has a thing for using celebrities and emotion to sell cars, though Jennifer Lopez didn't quite turn out to be the rainmaker for the 500 that the company had hoped (it didn't help that her back-to-Bronx commercial used a J-Lo body double). But the tactic worked for Fiat-owned Chrysler, with the "Imported from Detroit" spots starting in last year's Superbowl, featuring Eminem. Maybe Francois will pull off another commercial coup at this year's game.

But perceptions might not be the biggest hurdle to more North American sales. Ad Age notes that the rollout of Fiat dealerships -- er, I mean, "studios" -- has been slow.

Via: Detroit Free Press

Image:Flickr/mondialdelauto

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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