Talk about a cultural divide. While the Fiat 500 struggles to find customers on this side of the Atlantic, in Europe it’s a different story. Over there, the car is a celebrated icon and the original “Cinquecento” was largely responsible for putting Italy on wheels following World War II.
In the U.K., the ‘reborn’ version has been on sale for almost half a decade, yet according to the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), in 2012, the Fiat 500 is still a top 10 best seller.
Some 2,600 Fiat 500 models were sold in Britain last month, which is more than half the entire total of Fiats registered during the same period. Year to date sales of the Italian brand are up some 9.5 percent over 2011.
According to Elena Bernadelli, marketing director for Fiat Automobiles Group U.K., a big part of the car’s continued success in the United Kingdom is the fact that “it has always caught the British public’s imagination, and our continuing improvements and new ideas, such as the 500C convertible, TwinAir technology, special style editions, and sub-100g/km CO2 levels for further environmental benefits, all go towards keeping the 500 among the best sellers.”
In Britain, the Fiat 500 is available with an 85 bhp 0.9-liter TwinAir, 69 bhp 1.2-liter and 95 bhp 1.3-liter MultiJet turbo diesel engines, all of which meet stringent Euro 5 emissions standards. In North America, the car is only available with a 1.4-liter MultiAir unit rated at 101 horsepower (160 in Abarth trim).
Whether the introduction of the 500L will help bolster the Fiat 500’s chances in North America remains to be seen, though at this juncture, perhaps Fiat dealers on this side of the pond could do far worse than try and apply a bit of that old world magic, that’s done wonders for their European counterparts.