Fiat is focusing on making the brand more “desirable” in the UK this year on the back of its revamped 500 model.
The resurgent Italian marque launched the 500 in London last week and hopes to sell 18,000 of them in the UK by the end of the year. The original 500 sold more than 3.8 million cars from 1957 to 1975 and the new version was this week voted 2008 Car of the Year by European motoring journalists.
Fiat UK marketing director Elena Bernardelli says: “What we need to do, maybe not so much in Italy but certainly in this country, is to increase the desirability of the brand. That’s the role of the 500. It’s a long process but the 500 brings the cool factor to the Fiat brand.”
Fiat sales plummeted by more than 50% in the UK in 2005 after the company was criticised for the quality of its cars and because of a lack of investment in new products as a result of its financial problems.
However, Fiat UK sales jumped more than 64% in 2006, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Sales were up by 1% last year to 59,409, giving it a 2.5% market share in the UK.
The 500 will be going up against BMW-owned Mini but will have a cheaper entry price of about £7,900. Managing director of motoring consultancy The Automotive Partnership, Mike Moran, calls the 500 “the coolest new small car since the Mini”.