As globalization forces many companies to operate everywhere, some car brands try to become global by introducing dedicated models in different markets. Although some makes are not available in every single country, and some are even concentrated in only one region, those trying to play a major role, need to be present in as many markets as possible, to survive.
Fiat has been a historic car brand in Europe and Brazil. It tried to expand its presence in other markets like the United States, India, Russia, and China, but in the end most of its operations take place in Europe and South America. Last year, these two regions made up 97% of its global sales. The former counted for 57%, while the latter represented 40% of the total. The brand sold around 36,000 units in the rest of the world with zero presence in China and India.
But the presence of Fiat in these two regions is quite different.
Fiat is globally known for making practical and cute small cars. At least, that’s the positioning the brand has worked on over the last 20 years. However, there are big differences between the perception of the public in Italy and Brazil, its two largest markets. Even the positioning of the brand is extremely different.
In Italy, where it sold 21% of all the vehicles last year, the brand faces challenging times. While the Panda and 500 continue to lead the market and are the benchmark in the A segment, the rest of the range can barely compete against the other mainstream brands. The brand left the B segment when it discontinued the Punto, even if this segment still makes up 21% of total registrations through August.
The Tipo counted for 11% of the C segment total, behind the Volkswagen Golf and the Audi A3. And in the B-SUV segment, where the 500X plays, it was outsold by the Ford Puma and Jeep Renegade during the first 8 months of this year. In total, Fiat’s market share within 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 largest market in 2021. Fiat is not only the leader but it has been able to maintain its market share despite the lack of SUVs (the Pulse and Fastback were recently introduced) and the arrival of Jeep to this market. Fiat’s market share remained stable this year at 22%. Five years ago, it was 13%, and in 2012 it was 23%.
Part of the explanation is due to the perception of the public. Fiat is considered the ideal car to buy among the Brazilian public due to its low maintenance cost and the strong service presence through out the country. Finally, it is still considered a cool brand following the continuous presentations of new models.
Fiat Brazil has launched five different models over the last 5 years. In fact, the average age of the Brazilian lineup (excluding the vans) is 3.4 years. In contrast, Fiat Italy offers six different models whose average age since the year of the introduction to the market is 8.7 years. The last time the Italian division of this brand introduced an all-new model was in 2020 when the Fiat 500e was presented. Before that, Fiat introduced the Tipo and 500X in 2015.
Innovation, consistency on the product launches, and connection with the consumer's needs makes Fiat Brazil an example for the other divisions of the brand.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.