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The U.S. auto industry is kicking back as 2013 draws to a close, if only for a brief moment, to revel in its best year since 2007.
Funny little Italian cars are finally coming into vogue, or so it seems after Fiat reported its best month of U.S. sales to date in February.
“I’m holding my breath, but to beat February would be a big, big win for us,” Fiat brand head Timothy Kuniskis told the Detroit Free Press.
With 3,227 units sold last month, it seems the company is on an upward trend. Still, it’s not terribly surprising because sub-compacts and compacts are out-pacing every other market segment for growth. Thanks in no small part to rising gas prices, the two sections are attracting new buyers to trade in larger vehicles in anticipation of fuel climbing beyond $4 per gallon in the near future.
While it’s undeniable that economic factors are playing a big part in boosting Fiat and other small car manufacturers, the company’s marketing strategy also deserves recognition.
Edgy ads like the Fist 500 Abarth Superbowl commerical and those that followed it are helping to bring the otherwise obscure name in front of consumers.
That obscurity is the direct result of Fiat’s 28-year hiatus from the American market. When the brand relaunched last March it had little marketing support and could have been written off as an unfortunate experiment by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.
Nevertheless, it seems like the company might have actually times its release wisely, leaving it in a position to sell sub-compact cars with Italian styling cues in a market where most of the competition sells sans-pizzazz.
Managing to replicate its February sales would be a big victory for the company, which is seeing growing interest in the hot-rod Abarth thanks to the aforementioned commercial and others like the recently-aired “House Arrest” spot featuring notorious badboy Charlie Sheen and a slew of sexy women.
Thankfully, it won’t take long to see how the company fares, at least in the short term. If current market trends are any indication of consumer preference there may be more Fiats in sight than you otherwise might have expected.
GALLERY: Fiat 500 Abarth
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
February treated the auto industry well this year, at least for the most part. The majority of automakers saw sales increases over the same month last year.
Chrysler was the big winner, reporting a 40 percent sales increase over February of last year. Even GM posted a tiny 1.1 percent gain over last year despite suffering from poor Cadillac and Buick sales. In fact, industry sales grew 16 percent overall compared to last year.
Cars made in North America grew the most, by 17 percent, while European manufactured vehicles saw the smallest increase — only 2 percent.
Last month’s sales numbers were nothing short of striking, but one of the most interesting developments came from the muscle car battle Chevrolet and Ford are waging against one another. The Mustang finally beat the Camaro in sales with 7,351 units to Chevrolet’s 6,923.
The next question is how long those numbers will last, given that the new 580-horsepower ZL1 Camaro is being released and is said to be the best bow tie-bearing pony car yet.
Among the other companies with impressive growth, Mercedes-Benz sub-brand Smart saw a 59 percent increase. British luxury brand Jaguar enjoyed a 48 percent boost, and while Volkswagen and MINI enjoyed 43 and 42 percent increases respectively. Even econo-box manufacturer Kia saw a 37 percent sales jump over last year.
In an industry which has recently seen generally negative news regarding sales figures, Jeep is bucking the trend. Global sales for this purely SUV brand are up by 41 per cent, while in the US, sales grew by 44 per cent.
However, that is nothing when compared to the growth the brand has enjoyed in Europe in 2011. In Germany for instance, sales have grown by 124 percent, and in Italy by 117.6 percent. In France they are up by 71.7 percent and even in economy stricken markets like Spain and UK, sales grew by 21.2 and 18 percent respectively.
On a whole, European sales for the Jeep brand have swollen by 61.8 percent. This is certainly great news for the brand and its investing partners.
“The increase in Jeep sales in Europe is evidence that Chrysler Group’s integration with the Fiat Group is clearly working,” says Mike Manley, President and CEO, Jeep Brand, Chrysler Group LLC. “Much of the Jeep brand’s success in Europe can be attributed to a strengthened dealer network, as well as a roll-out of new Jeep models for the European market – including the incorporation of Fiat’s fuel- and emissions-saving MultiJet II technology on the new 3.0-liter CRD engine that powers the Grand Cherokee.”
If Jeep can continue on this upward swing, it can become the most popular North American import brand in Europe.
With China seen by many as the future in terms of greatest sales potential when it comes to consumer goods, many organizations are looking to establish a stronger presence in the region.
Infiniti recently announced that it is putting plans in place to relocate it’s global headquarters from Yokohama in Japan, to Hong Kong, which is currently a special autonomous region of China.
The move comes as Infiniti makes plans to increase global sales to some 500,000 units annually, with the greatest gains likely in China and other South East asian markets.
Andy Palmer, executive vice president at Nissan Motor Co Ltd, stated in reference to the move that “as Infiniti grows its presence in the global luxury markets of North America, Europe, China and South East Asia, we selected Hong Kong as the optimum location for our new global Infiniti headquarters. We see an opportunity to reinforce Asian hospitality within the Infiniti brand, distinct from both Nissan and our facing luxury competitors.” He also added that Infiniti is ” proud to be the only automaker that will call Hong Kong home.
Alongside the new Infinti HQ, Nissan will also set up a new corporate office in the same location, with a target of both facilities becoming operational in April 2012. For more information, click below: