As globalization forces many companies to operate everywhere, some car brands are trying to go global by introducing dedicated models in different markets. While some brands are not available in all countries, and some are even concentrated in a single region, those looking to play a significant role need to be present in as many markets as possible to survive.
Fiat is a historic brand in Europe and Brazil. It tried to expand its presence in other markets such as the United States, India, Russia, and China, but eventually most of its operations are in Europe and South America. Last year, these two regions accounted for 97% of its global sales. The former represented 57%, while the latter represented 40% of the total. In the rest of the world, the brand sold around 36,000 units, with no presence in China or India.
But Fiat’s presence in Europe and South America is very different.
Fiat is known around the world for producing practical and beautiful small cars. This is at least the positioning on which the brand has been working for 20 years. However, there are big differences between public perception in Italy and Brazil, its two largest markets. The positioning of the brand is also extremely different.
In Italy, where Fiat sold 21% of all vehicles last year, the brand is going through a tough time. While the Panda and 500 continue to dominate the market and be the A-segment benchmark, the rest of the range struggles to compete with other mainstream brands. The brand left the B segment when it retired the Punto, although this segment still represented 21% of total registrations until August.
The Tipo accounted for 11% of the C-segment total, behind the Volkswagen Golf and the Audi A3. And in the B-SUV segment where the 500X lives, in the first eight months of this year it was overtaken by the Ford Puma and the Jeep Renegade. In total, Fiat’s market share in the Italian passenger car market was 14.3%. Five years ago, in 2017, its market share was 20.1% and 30 years ago it was almost 32%.
The situation is quite different in Brazil, its biggest market in 2021. Fiat is not only the leader, but has managed to maintain its market share despite the lack of SUVs (the Pulse and Fastback were introduced recently) and the arrival of Jeep in this market. This year, Fiat’s market share remained stable at 22%. Five years ago it was 13% and in 2012 it was 23%.
Part of the explanation is due to public perception. Fiat is considered the ideal car to buy for the Brazilian public thanks to its low maintenance costs and strong service presence throughout the country. Finally, it is still considered a cool brand thanks to the continuous presence of new models.
Fiat Brazil has launched five different models over the past five years. Indeed, the average age of the Brazilian range (excluding vans) is 3.4 years. On the other hand, Fiat Italia offers six different models whose average age since the year of placing on the market is 8.7 years.
The last time the Italian division of this brand presented a completely new model was in 2020, when the Fiat 500e was presented. Before that, Fiat introduced the Tipo and the 500X in 2015.
Innovation, consistency in product launches and connection with consumer needs make Fiat Brasile an example for the brand’s other divisions.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is automotive industry specialist JATO Dynamics.