The truth gets out every now and then – not that many are paying attention. And the truth behind Fiat’s slow-motion exit-stage-left from the North American car market is that Americans just aren’t very interested in “efficient” small cars.
If they were very interested, as the government (and media) constantly claims that they are, then available efficient small cars like the 500 three-door hatchback would be selling well.
They’re available; anyone who want one is free to buy one.
Instead, they hardly sell at all. Fiat had counted on 50,000 sales annually – on the assumption that Americans hungered for efficient small cars denied them by the evil entente of Big Oil and the Big Three, which forced them to buy “gas hogs” they really didn’t want.
The facts speak for themselves. Given the choice, most Americans don’t want the kinds of cars the government insists they’re pining for.
Last year, only 5,370 Fiat 500s were sold nationwide.
Ford sells more F-150 pick ups in a week.
Thus, the news that Fiat will cease trying to sell what few Americans actually want.
The 500 slides off the radar after the end of this model year and probably soon thereafter, Fiat itself since its remaining models – the 500L and 500X – are also small-sized slow-sellers that never sold as well as the 500 hatchback.
Fiat’s overall sales are down almost 40 percent.
But it’s not just Fiat doing the Randy Watson microphone drop.
BMW is having the same tough time selling the same thing Fiat’s been having trouble selling. The German luxury car maker owns Mini – and they’re not selling well, either. Notably, the three-door Mini hatchback – which is a car very similar in layout and specifications to the ill-starred 500 from Fiat. It gets even better gas mileage – but so far this year, BMW has only sold about twice as many Minis per month as Fiat has 500s.
Which isn’t many.
On average, about 650 per month.
You could combine the number of Minis and 500s sold all year so far and Ford would still have sold more F-150s in a week.
Ford sells something like 60,000 F-trucks every month.
This includes the 50-something MPG Toyota Prius hybrid.
Which can’t be slammed (as Fiat and Mini have been) over iffy quality control. It’s a Toyota.
Nonetheless, only about 1,500 of them per month have found homes so far this year – a rounding error relative to the cars that do sell.
Which don’t get 50 MPG.
For example, the Dodge Charger – literally the last of the proverbial V8 Interceptors. Sales of this ancient car – the last major update was 10 years ago – are up to more than 9,000 a month, which is equivalent to the total number of Mini three-doors BMW sold during all of 2018 – despite the fact that a V8 Charger uses at least twice as much gas a hybrid Prius.
Which would you rather drive?
The problem is the government disagrees. Not because there’s an “energy crisis” but because the government is determined to impose energy austerity.
Hence the fatwa insisting that all new cars average close to 50 MPG by 2025 – in spite of the obvious fact that most people don’t want a car that averages 50 MPG or even 35 MPG because there is plenty of energy, and it’s inexpensive.
Not if it means driving something very small, at least.
Which brings up an interesting side point. Small cars like the 500 and Mini hardtop are preposterously heavy cars for their size: 2,505 lbs. for the 500 and 2,625 lbs. for the Mini. That’s about 800 pounds more than a ’70s-era economy subcompact car weighed – which is why those cars often delivered better mileage than today’s small (but heavy) cars do.
And they’re heavy because the government insists on that, too. By fatwa’ing that even small cars make it through crash-testing regimes that would challenge the sturdiness of a ’72 Sedan deViille.
If the car industry could legally build 1,700 lb. cars, they’d probably get 50 MPG instead of 30-something MPG.
People might even buy them then – because a small car that got 20 MPG more than a current small car might actually compensate for the smallness.
Of course, the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety fatwas aren’t going to be relaxed, either. Which means the car companies will have to figure out a way to get big cars and trucks – the models that sell – to 50 MPG without making them small.
That will be a neat trick. Right up there with “free” college for all.
. . .
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