Sales of the tiny Fiat 500 are nowhere close to reaching the lofty goals set by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. The Italian automaker expected to sell 50,000 500s during 2011 in North America, but until now, only 16,000 units were sold.
Laura Soave, head of the Fiat brand in North America, has said that one of the main reasons for coming short of the initial 50,000 sales target this year are the delays in opening new stores. However, there are already 100 dealerships in the States.
Now, because of low demand for the tiny four-seater Chrysler Group has suspended production this month of the 1.4-liter FIRE engine that powers the Fiat 500 in North America, automotive news reports.
While early US-specification Fiat 500s used Fiat-built engines, the Toluca, Mexico plant which builds the cars is now relying on engines made in Michigan.
The upcoming Abarth model, to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show, will use a turbocharged version of the same engine, also made by Chrysler.
Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said the plant “is moderating its schedule to adjust for the current bank of engines.”
The vehicle’s strongest U.S. markets so far are in California and the Southeast, according to initial sales figures, while the weakest regional markets are in the Midwest.