Editor’s Notice: This week, Peter takes on FIAT and the newest “brilliance” pouring forth from its CEO, Olivier Francois. In On The Desk, we have a look at the gorgeous Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa that’s coming to public sale subsequent month at Sotheby’s. We additionally preview Jeep’s first world battery-electric automobile (BEV), the all-new, all-electric premium Jeep Wagoneer S (yawn). And our AE Tune of the Week is “Why” by Annie Lennox. In Fumes, we deliver you Peter’s “The Muscle Boys” – when huge block V8s dominated the racing world. And eventually, in The Line, we deliver you the newest IMSA outcomes from the Roar Earlier than the 24 at Daytona. Take pleasure in! -WG
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. It wouldn’t be the auto biz, no less than 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 world chief advertising and marketing officer of Stellantis. In any case, Francois has distinguished himself – no less than intermittently – with some memorable Tremendous Bowl spots, the perfect of the bunch being “Farmer” for Ram truck from 2013, which used the enduring 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 effectively, and he loves hanging round with celebrities, pondering 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 “good friend” throughout and after their collaborations, which is one thing that he clearly craves. I might greatest describe Francois because the “King of Borrowed Curiosity,” as he orchestrates current inventive to go well with his sensibilities and venture no matter model he’s being attentive to in the mean time.
And Francois’s model of the second is the semi-iconic (no less than 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. Bear 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 effectively finished? Yeah, no one else does both, besides in fact, 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 self-importance venture, and this simply in and in case you’re questioning: the whole lot he entails himself in is an arrogance venture. 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 fingers on the FIAT model will instantly push the model to “buzz” standing, and his fame will develop even bigger, no less than 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, “one hundred pc electrical, one hundred pc Italian,” in line 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 p.c in EV gross sales in North America by 2030, and one hundred pc in EV gross sales in Europe by 2030. (That each one sounds effectively 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 could make sense to some. In any case, its sticker worth will probably be $32,500, and as I’ve written repeatedly, affordability is the most vital issue out there now and it’ll proceed to be going ahead. The producers who perceive which might be going to achieve success. Sadly, within the 500e’s case, it may well solely be thought-about a 3rd or fourth automobile for many shoppers as a result of its miniscule dimension. There will probably be exceptions in fact, particularly for the patron who doesn’t want vary and solely wants a automobile once in a while. Then it’d simply exercise nice. However actuality means that these consumers will probably be few and much between.
However, and there’s all the time a however with regards to Francois, he’s relying on his advertising and marketing 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 huge concept? FIAT will do “drops” of the 500e like Nike does shoe releases. In fact, pushing $150.00 sneakers is rather a lot totally different than making an attempt to create myriad particular editions of a automobile that most individuals can be arduous pressed to contemplate to start with. The naiveté of this plan is obvious as day to everybody besides Francois, in fact. However since he has pronounced it as the trail to advertising and marketing success for the FIAT model going ahead, his boot-licking minions haven’t any selection however to pronounce it “good” as effectively, 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 will likely be stuffed 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 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 anticipate that to alter, 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 any case, the whole lot he touches turns to gold, didn’t ? 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.