Guest post by Leo Maselli
There is a palpable feeling in the air that is as sweet and heady as raw garlic being sautéed in olive oil. It all has to do with the long-held attraction that has always existed between thousands upon thousand of American drivers and all Italian vehicles – no matter two wheels or four. The atmosphere I describe exists so intensely that Americans in many urban centers are popping into a Fiat dealership and getting re-acquainted with an old legend: the Fiat 500 and Fiat 500 Abarth – revamped versions of the Cinquecento.
Way back in the early 1900s, Giovanni Agnelli, the founder of Fiat, determined that in order to expand his passenger car market beyond just the European, he would have to offer a low-cost Fiat of practical size and extreme durability that demanded minimum driving skills while offering a maximum fuel economy. In North America his efforts both succeeded and ultimately failed. Fast forward to 2009 when Chrysler and Fiat confirmed a strategic alliance that gave Fiat 35% of Chrysler in exchange for access to its technology and overseas market. The stage was set for the return of Fiat.
It was the Fiat marketing team that spawned the wonderfully cheeky scheme of presenting the revamped version of the Cinquecento as sexy and desirable. Suddenly, it was the unlikely, but much appreciated, profile of Jennifer Lopez that was seen zipping around New York City in a Fiat 500. I’m hoping that she appears in many American cities with that same smile on her face and the similar crowds waving and watching her roll by.
And can any man not fully understand the meaning of the Abarth commercial that features that stunning Italian woman with the Scorpion tattooed on the back of her neck? She had me at, “What the (bleep) are you looking at” or whatever that was that she yelled in Italian to the nice young man who was just standing there drinking his coffee. I should be so lucky.
I’ve studied Fiat’s past, present and projected future importance in the United States market, as well as the magnetic attraction between this “new” imported car from Italy and the American driver, male and female. As a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are ten reasons the Fiat brand will sell well in America.
- Americans get a kick out of looking at the gas gauge and seeing the word benzina. The Italian language is just more romantic.
- Fiats have a adventurous spirit, i.e. “Life is best when driven.”
- It provides the opportunity to feel like an Italian character, simply by sitting in the car with dark shades on.
- The 500 thinks it is Casanova, which gives it a sense of destiny.
- You’re never too old (or too young) to drive a Fiat.
- The car is designed to be admired. It makes a good first impression.
- Fiat has infused the car with history, a unifying spirit of the company’s past, present and future.
- Italians bottle passion and enthusiasm. Fiat oozes both.
- The American perception of Italian driving machines (like Fiat, Ferrari and Vespa) is that they are gorgeous, fun, and sexy.
- Americans will drive a Fiat: it makes drivers scream for more.