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Why Fiat bailed
Why did Fiat leave? Let me count the ways....
Seabolt is basically right in that Fiat Motors North America and Fiat
S.p.A. botched things up. Roosevelt Motors did very well with Fiat on
their own, but then things were different in the sixties too.
One needs only to look at the dealer level to see the beginnings of
trouble. Fiat was more often than not a second-line car to Buick or
Volkswagen, and especially if a domestic line dealer, the "weird furrin
cars" were often not the favorites of the mechanics. Customer service
wasn't a big deal in the 70's until the Japanese showed up. Dealers were
often few and far between and they stocked few parts.
The forced rust recalls really dampened Fiat's chances here too. Why
Fiat was singled out when Datsuns and Volkswagens and even Fords weren't
much better is a mystery, but it was horrible PR for Fiat and cost them
a lot of money. Kind of difficult to sell new cars when there are forty
rusted ones parked behind the dealership waiting to be scrapped.
If you look back, Fiat put a lot of effort and much of its hopes for the
future in the Strada. Advertising for the car was everywhere, and it
technically was more advanced than the Le Car, Rabbit, Fiesta and
Chevette. Unfortunately, it was butt-ugly, had round door handles, and a
number of teething problems (i.e. alternators, emissions recalls) right
away in its life. The Le Car was trendy, the Rabbit a known success, the
Fiesta spunky and bulletproof, and the Chevette...well, some people will
buy anything with a blue bowtie on the grille no matter how horrible it
With only the spider and X1/9 generating any real sales (the Brava by
now was a poorly marketed 7 year old car) Fiat didn't have much to cheer
about. Watching the success of everyone else must have made them wonder
As for Malcolm Bricklin, everything he's ever touched has been doomed to
failure, except Subaru. They wisely bought him out when the FF1 was
introduced and Japanese cars were beginning to catch on. Ironically, the
Yugo was almost a success, but the dealer selection virtually repeated
that of the Fiat, and the slavik parts were never as good as the Italian
equivelant. They sold a lot of cars though, and without a civil war
might still have been here.
1970 124 Spider
Just one of a long list of orphan cars once owned
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