Fiat Takes a Beating in New Consumer Auto Study

The battering of Fiat continues as it finished next to last in the new J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) study. Fiat sales in the United States have plunged again in 2017 as the brand has become marginalized among manufacturers that sell small cars.

Fiat’s score was 752, on a scale with the highest number of 1,000. Only Mitsubishi ranked worse, and it recently closed its last car plant in the United States. The average non-premium car brand score was 814. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) stablemates Jeep and Dodge also did poorly, with scores of 773 and 795, respectively. The top ranked non-premium brand was MINI with a score of 838.

Fiat sales in the United States have fallen sharply. Over the first six months of this year, sales have dropped 12% to 14,682. Every model of its flagship 500 series has suffered sales erosion.

Fiat has appeared near the bottom of most other J.D. Power surveys, and it has done the same in the important Consumer Reports car survey. The Consumer Reports editors wrote:

 The Fiat brand was reintroduced in the U.S. in 2011 with the diminutive, retro-styled 500. Despite attractive looks and a fun driving experience, various crudities limit its appeal. Reliability has been dismal. The 500L proved unimpressive in our tests and for the third straight year is among the least-reliable new cars in our reliability survey. The 500X is stylish and has a number of available safety features, but had a rather mediocre performance in our testing.

Fiat Chrysler has decided to continue to sell Fiat vehicles in the United States, but the decision has become puzzling. Virtually every major car company has small, fuel-efficient cars, and some of them sell extremely well. The 500 series competes in one of the most bruising parts of the auto industry.

Methodology: The study measures owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement across 77 attributes, ranging from the power they feel when they step on the gas to the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat. These attributes are combined into an overall APEAL index score that is measured on a 1,000-point scale. The study, now in its 22nd year, is based on responses gathered from February through May 2017 from nearly 70,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2017 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.

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