Some Fiat employees at two Italian factories got a surprise last week: their foreign-made cars from brands such as Volkswagen and Peugeot had been "wrapped up" in a giant plastic bag, with a Valentine heart on top. The message in Italian translated into: "Seeing you with someone else breaks my heart. But we're still thinking of you anyways." The message was printed on top of a red heart with a crack running from top to bottom.
No, it wasn't a jilted lover. It was a promotional campaign created by Fiat's marketing office, along with public relations agency So Simple, to try to entice employees at its in factories in Mirafiori, near Turin, and Pomigliano, near Naples, to take advantage of a special discount on new Fiats.
As the puzzled employees pulled the plastic from their cars, they were approached by members of the agency's staff who handed them brochures outlining a 1,000-euro discount that is now being offered in addition to Fiat's standard employee discount, which is 12 percent to 26 percent depending on the model.
Automakers around the world offer their employees generous discounts on new cars, and frown on seeing cars from rival brands in their parking lots. But few automakers have gone as far to try to woo their own workers.
“We decided we want to do everything possible to promote sales any way we can,” a Fiat spokesman in Turin said when asked about the rationale behind the unusual move. Agency So Simple declined to comment.
Employees in Pomigliano who were captured unwrapping their cars via TV cameras were mostly bemused, although one irritated-looking young woman refused to comment.
When a young man was asked about the promotion while walking to his car he said he would consider the offer if he got a bigger discount, but he wasn't sure whether he could afford the future payments. “I bought my Renault used," he said. "My contract at Fiat ends in a couple of months.”
Italy is suffering from record unemployment, with joblessness reaching 13 percent in February compared with an EU-wide average of 11.9 percent.
Reactions on social media showed that not everyone appreciated the campaign.
“How ironic to target employees’ foreign cars at a time when you are moving your legal headquarters overseas,” wrote Alberto Mora, a copywriter, on Twitter, referring to Fiat’s plan to shift its tax base to the UK and its legal set to the Netherlands.
Employees at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills offices shouldn’t expect their cars from other brands to get wrapped up any time soon. A Fiat spokesman in Turin said he didn’t think the idea would be repeated in Detroit.