Fiat's 500X, the perky subcompact crossover that arrived in dealerships six months ago, has been selling well but has done little to help the beleaguered brand overall -- as it was counted on to do.
Dealers say the 500X hasn't multiplied showroom traffic as much as it has subtracted sales from other Fiat models.
"It's substitution," said one frustrated Fiat dealer who asked not to be named. "There's no more traffic coming into the showroom than before."
While sales of the 500X have been rising steadily, those of the two other Fiat models are down sharply, and inventories are bloated. Fiat Chrysler and its Fiat dealers have a 280-day supply of the 500L, and a 239-day supply of unsold 500 minicars.
Dealers who counted on the all-wheel-drive 500X to boost new-vehicle sales in their struggling stores are disappointed. And their Fiat equation -- one that allows them to make a return on their investment -- is getting harder to solve.
In April, Jason Stoicevich, then the head of the Fiat brand in North America, said the crossover would give Fiat "additional opportunities" in snowy regions, such as the northeast United States. He said the 500X would be "a game changer for us. This will be the halo of the brand."
Stoicevich has since resigned from FCA, and former Fiat brand head Tim Kuniskis was given responsibility for the brand again -- in addition to running the Dodge and Chrysler brands. Kuniskis is a favorite of Fiat dealers. He was largely credited with reviving the brand after a rocky launch when he first took the reins in November 2011, replacing Laura Soave.