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Fiat Continues Disappearing Act as Sales Plunge

Douglas A. McIntyre

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (FCAU) has said time and again that its Fiat brand can be turned around in the United States. It has introduced new models to do so. The plan has not worked. Fiat's sales continued to free fall in February.

Fiat sales shrank by 19% to 2,145 last month. That means it sold only 77 cars a day nationwide. For the first two months of the year, sales dropped 14% to 4,309.

Fiat Chrysler has a strange way of describing how the brand did in February:

Sales of the Fiat 500 were up 1 percent in February, compared with the same month a year ago. Sales of the new Fiat 124 Spider were up 26 percent compared with the previous month of January.

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It is a twist on the brand's failure that it does not acknowledge the performance of the entire brand at all. Spider sales were 302 for the month, which means they hardly merit a mention. Sales of the 500L dropped 81% to 72. Sales of the 500X, which was Fiat's best-selling model in February of last year, dropped 45% to 640.

Among Fiat's problems are its horrible quality ratings. The widely followed J.D. Power 2017 Vehicle Dependability Study ranked Fiat last with 298 problems per 100 cars. The industry average was 156. Industry leaders Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), and Porsche, part of Volkswagen, had 110.

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There is no telling why Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne continues to market and sell Fiats in the United States. The brand is past the point of recovery.

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