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Rumors have been swirling for quite some time now that Laura Soave, arguably the person responsible for bringing Fiat back into the U.S. market, would be replaced as the head of the Fiat brand in North America. Well the news is official now, with a press release being sent out moments ago confirming Soave’s exit and Timothy Kuniskis taking her place.
It’s startling how much can happen in just a year, where at the 2010 LA Auto Show, Soave was proudly on stage presenting the Fiat 500 for all of us to see. Now a year later, she’s not even with the company anymore amidst rumors of improper professional relationships, slow sales and marketing disaster (J.Lo as spokesperson, anyone?). Her replacement, Timothy Kuniskis, has been recently serving as Director for both the Chrysler Brand and Fiat Brand Product Marketing. At least now he has the Fiat 500 Abarth to bolster sales.
Sales targets for the Fiat 500 were set at an ambitious 6,000 units per month, and surprise surprise, the car isn’t meeting them. This might be due to the fact that it’s a subcompact, foreign branded car in a market where gasoline is (relatively) cheap and large vehicles reign supreme. Or it could be the fault of your marketing agency, if you ask Chrysler.
Fiat marketing chief Oliver Francois told trade publication Advertising Age that the brand has an “awareness problem”, and apparently, a product placement in a Jennifer Lopez music video didn’t help matters. Fiat has also reportedly dumped their ad agency, which formerly employed Fiat North America CEO Laura Sove.
So far Fiat has sold 11,088 examples, far off the 72,000 unit annual target. The axe has to fall on someone, and we’ll be waiting to see who ends up taking responsibility for this matter.
[Source: Advertising Age]
Shares in Fiat fell on Tuesday as a result of reports that North American sales of the 500 would fall short of the company’s target.
Fiat shares fell 4.26 percent Tuesday as investors grew worried over what CEO Sergio Marchionne said regarding the great opportunities the Italian brand would have in America.Laura Soave, head of the Fiat brand in North America acknowledged that Fiat would fall short of its full-year North American sales target of 50,000 vehicles. By the end of July, Fiat had only sold 12,000 units in North America.
Fiat is hoping to have better luck with a new variant which will hopefully cement the 500′s reputation as a trend setter. A Gucci 500 will be unveiled at Fashion Week in New York on September 8. Both Gucci editions of the Fiat 500 and 500 Cabrio have been designed in collaboration between Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini and Fiat’s Centro Stile. ”With Gucci as our design partner, we’ve amplified the Italian style of our Fiat 500 with unique exterior and interior looks that will make the car truly unique on the road,” said Laura Soave. ”We have coverage now, so now is the time for us to turn this up,” Soave said. Fiat’s Gucci 500 will hit dealerships in December and pricing will soon be announced.
[Source: The Detroit News]
American consumers buying the Fiat 500 are choosing pricier packages and customized options. The mid level Sport ($17,500) model accounts for almost half of the model’s sales in the first five months of the Italian brand in the U.S.
The top level Lounge ($19,500) model represents 20 percent of sales which features bigger wheels, leather seats, satellite radio and a glass roof. ”A lot of what we’re seeing is customers really want to build their car,” said Laura Soave, head of the Fiat brand in North America. ”Customers are willing to wait the six to eight weeks to get the one they want.”
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler, aims to merge both automakers to reduce costs and generate over $142 billion by 2014. Chrysler predicts selling more than 50,000 500′s annually in the US. Fiat has delivered 7,982 500′s in the US since March and has sold 3,038 units in July. Fiat will open 130 initial dealerships and hopes to attain its sales target by 2011. The 500 is built in Chrysler’s factory near Mexico City.
[Source: Automotive News]
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