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By Car Brand Experts

Editor’s Notice: This week, Peter takes on FIAT and the newest “brilliance” pouring forth from its CEO, Olivier Francois. In On The Desk, we have a look at the gorgeous Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa that’s coming to public sale subsequent month at Sotheby’s. We additionally preview Jeep’s first international battery-electric car (BEV), the all-new, all-electric premium Jeep Wagoneer S (yawn). And our AE Tune 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 newest 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, a minimum of 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 international chief advertising officer of Stellantis. In spite of everything, Francois has distinguished himself – a minimum of intermittently – with some memorable Tremendous Bowl spots, the very best of the bunch being “Farmer” for Ram truck from 2013, which used the long-lasting phrases and voice of Paul Harvey. It was, fairly merely, the very best 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, considering 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 firstly, and Francois will get to name them “buddy” throughout and after their collaborations, which is one thing that he clearly craves. I’d greatest describe Francois because the “King of Borrowed Curiosity,” as he orchestrates current inventive to swimsuit his sensibilities and mission no matter model he’s listening to in the mean time.   

And Francois’s model of the second is the semi-iconic (a minimum of 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. Bear 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 finished? Yeah, no person else does both, besides in fact, 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: all the things he entails himself in is an arrogance mission. In spite of everything, if it isn’t about him, he actually has zero curiosity in it. On this case, Francois thinks that his laying of his palms on the FIAT model will instantly push the model to “buzz” standing, and his popularity will develop even bigger, a minimum of 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,” in keeping with Stellantis PR minions. The little 500e is alleged 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 every one sounds nicely and good, simply don’t plan on making any inroads within the Chicago market, or anyplace else the place the thermometer will get close to zero.) 

On paper, the 500e could make sense to some. In spite of everything, its sticker value might be $32,500, and as I’ve written repeatedly, affordability is the most essential issue available in the market 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 may solely be thought-about a 3rd or fourth automotive for many shoppers resulting from its miniscule measurement. There might be exceptions in fact, particularly for the patron who doesn’t want vary and solely wants a automotive occasionally. Then it would simply exercise high quality. However actuality means that these patrons might be few and much between. 

However, and there’s at all times a however in terms of Francois, he’s relying on his advertising 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 concept? FIAT will do “drops” of the 500e like Nike does shoe releases. After all, pushing $150.00 sneakers is rather a lot completely different than making an attempt to create myriad particular editions of a automotive that most individuals can be arduous pressed to contemplate to start with. The naiveté of this plan is obvious as day to everybody besides Francois, in fact. However since he has pronounced it as the trail to advertising 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 to make some noise, however it will likely be filled with sound and fury signifying nothing. Sure, they could achieve some gross sales within the “smile states” however past that, this effort might be 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 count on that to alter, even when it is just January. 

However Francois will tout its success anyway, because the gross sales hover round negligible, as a result of in spite of everything, all the things he touches turns to gold, didn’t ? Simply don’t look too deep after the very 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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