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Friday, February 23, 2024


Editor’s Observe: This week, Peter takes on FIAT and the most recent “brilliance” pouring forth from its CEO, Olivier Francois. In On The Desk, we have a look at the beautiful 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 Music of the Week is “Why” by Annie Lennox. In Fumes, we convey you Peter’s “The Muscle Boys” – when huge block V8s dominated the racing world. And at last, in The Line, we convey you the most recent IMSA outcomes from the Roar Earlier than the 24 at Daytona. Get pleasure from! -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo 

Detroit. It wouldn’t be the auto biz, at the least 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 – at the least 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 in addition pumped up Francois’s already appreciable ego.  

Francois fancies himself as a musical genius as nicely, 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 at first, and Francois will get to name them “buddy” 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 mission no matter model he’s listening to in the meanwhile.   

And Francois’s model of the second is the semi-iconic (at the least in case your automotive taste runs Italian), at all times forlorn and woefully pathetic FIAT – the automotive firm that has loved intermittent curiosity on this market, however that has remained eminently forgettable all through its newest renaissance. Keep in mind when The Bombastic One (aka Sergio) promised sellers that FIAT would paved the way to riches for them whereas dangling Alfa Romeo franchises as a reward for a job nicely performed? Yeah, no person else does both, besides after all, 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 vainness mission, and this simply in and in case you’re questioning: every part he includes himself in is a conceit mission. 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 arms on the FIAT model will instantly push the model to “buzz” standing, and his status will develop even bigger, at the least 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,” based on 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 nicely 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 might make sense to some. In any case, its sticker worth shall be $32,500, and as I’ve written repeatedly, affordability is the most necessary issue out there now and it’ll proceed to be going ahead. The producers who perceive which are going to achieve success. Sadly, within the 500e’s case, it could possibly solely be thought-about a 3rd or fourth automotive for many shoppers as a result of its miniscule dimension. There shall be exceptions after all, particularly for the buyer who doesn’t want vary and solely wants a automotive from time to time. Then it would simply exercise high quality. However actuality means that these patrons shall be few and much between. 

However, and there’s at all times a however relating to Francois, he’s relying on his advertising and marketing genius to create an otherworldly buzz for the 500e, which isn’t any shock because it has been his “M.O.” since Day One. His huge thought? FIAT will do “drops” of the 500e like Nike does shoe releases. After all, pushing $150.00 sneakers is so much totally different than making an attempt to create myriad particular editions of a automotive that most individuals could be arduous pressed to think about to start with. The naiveté of this plan is obvious as day to everybody besides Francois, after all. 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 nicely, 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 and make some noise, however will probably be stuffed with sound and fury signifying nothing. Sure, they could achieve some gross sales within the “smile states” however past that, this effort shall be yet one more nonstarter for a model that doesn’t belong right here. As a matter of truth, 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, every part he touches turns to gold, didn’t you recognize? Simply don’t look too deep after the actual fact since you’ll swear you’re studying a brand new chapter of The Emperor’s New Garments.  

And that’s the Excessive-Octane Fact for this week. 

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