By James R. Healey, USA Today
Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says he grossly overestimated the degree to which Americans would embrace a super-small car. But even though the Fiat 500 fell well short of predictions, Marchionne says it won't hurt the automaker's fortunes.
Marchionne admits he was way off when he forecast that 50,000 Fiat 500s could be sold in the U.S. every year. Until the Scion iQ came along, the stylish Fiat 500 reigned as the second-smallest car on the U.S. market after the eight-foot, eight-inch Smart.
The Fiat 500 is important because it fills the gap for a small, fuel-efficient car in the otherwise Hemi and truck-heavy Chrysler Group line-up. But the brand only sold 19,769 of them last year, 2,325 in December alone.
"Blame me. I'm the guy that came up with the 50,000 forecast," he said today in a session with reporters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The good news? He says the Fiat 500 is made at a plant in Toluca, Mexico, that's flexible enough to make 500s for other markets and didn't cost a lot to tool-up to build the 500 in the first place.