The truth behind Fiat’s slow-motion exit-stage-left from the North American car market is that Americans just aren’t that interested in “efficient” small cars.
If they were, as the government (and media) constantly claim that they are, then available efficient small cars like the 500 three-door hatchback would be selling well.
They’re available; anyone who wants one is free to buy one.
Instead, they hardly sell at all. Fiat had counted on 50,000 sales annually with the assumption that Americans hungered for efficient small cars.
The facts speak for themselves. Given a choice, most Americans do not want the kinds of cars the government insists consumers want.
Last year, only 5,370 Fiat 500s sold nationwide.
Ford sells more F-150 pickups in a week.
Thus, we have the news that Fiat will cease trying to sell what few Americans want.
The 500 slides off the radar after the end of this model year and probably soon after that, Fiat itself since its remaining models, the 500L and 500X, are also small-sized slow-sellers that never sold as well as the 500 hatchbacks.
Fiat’s overall sales are down almost 40 percent.
But it’s not just Fiat having issues with selling small, energy efficient models.
BMW is having the same tough time selling the same thing Fiat’s been having trouble selling.
The German luxury car maker owns Mini, and they’re not selling well, either. Notably, the three-door Mini hatchback which is a car very similar in layout and specifications to the ill-starred 500 from Fiat.
It gets even better gas mileage, but so far this year, BMW has only sold about twice as many Minis per month as Fiat has 500s.
Which isn’t many—on average, about 650 per month.
You could combine the number of Minis and 500s sold all year so far, and Ford would still have sold more F-150s in a week.
Ford sells something like 60,000 F-trucks every month.
If gas mileage sells, why isn’t it selling?
This includes the 50-something MPG Toyota Prius hybrid, which can’t be slammed (as Fiat and Mini have been) over iffy quality control. It’s a Toyota.
Nonetheless, only about 1,500 of them per month have found homes so far this year—a rounding error relative to the cars that do sell, which don’t get 50 MPG.
For example, the Dodge Charger is the last of the proverbial V8 Interceptors. Sales of this ancient car—the last major update was 10 years ago—are up to more than 9,000 a month, which is equivalent to the total number of Mini three-door BMW’s sold during all of 2018.
This is despite the fact that a V8 Charger uses at least twice as much gas as a hybrid Prius.
Which would you rather drive?
Most Americans agree.
The problem is the government disagrees.
Not because there’s an “energy crisis” but because the government is determined to impose energy austerity.
Hence the edict insisting that all new cars average close to 50 MPG by 2025, in spite of the obvious fact that most people don’t want a car that averages 50 MPG or even 35 MPG because there is plenty of energy, and it’s inexpensive.
Not if it means driving something very small, at least.
This is what it will require since it takes energy to move weight and the most practical way to decrease energy consumption is to make a vehicle smaller and so, lighter.
The weird thing is: Small cars like the 500 and Mini hardtop are preposterously heavy cars for their size: 2,505 lbs. for the 500 and 2,625 lbs. for the Mini. That’s about 800 pounds more than a ’70s-era economy subcompact car weighed, which is why those cars often delivered better mileage than today’s small (but heavy) cars do.
And they’re heavy because the government insists on that, too. By regulating that even small cars make it through crash-testing regimes that would challenge the sturdiness of a ’72 Sedan Deville.
If the car industry could legally build 1,700 lb. cars, they’d probably get 50 MPG instead of 30-something MPG.
People might even buy them then because a small car that got 20 MPG more than a current small car might compensate for the smallness.
Of course, the safety regs won’t be relaxed, which means the car companies will have to figure out a way to get big cars and trucks—the models that sell and that are rated at 50 MPG without making them small.
The automakers have not been able to do this yet. Will they ever?