FCA’s Olivier François outlines Fiat’s flat-pack future.
On the basis of his recent outpourings, I rather doubt whether FCA’s Olivier François has ever been to an IKEA retail outlet. After all, visiting one of their stores is a little like dentistry. Numbingly unpleasant but occasionally necessary. At such times I’m compelled to go, I try to plan my expeditions in military fashion. Go when its quiet, get in, get the target and get the hell out.
Speaking with Automotive News’ Jennifer Clark this week, Fiat’s brand CEO outlined Fiat’s forthcoming plans for the C-segment, a sector Fiat have virtually abandoned across Northern European markets. Discussing the forthcoming model to replace the arthritic Bravo, François was keen to reposition Fiat’s offering, saying, “It will be functional and not loaded with features that the buyers don’t want to pay for. If you compare it with the Bravo, it will cover the same market space with two bodies [hatchback and estate] and a clarified mission: We will be careful to give you what you expect. Like IKEA, affordable but smart.”
In François’ world, people view IKEA positively. And for the most part he’s probably right – people probably do see the furniture and homeware chain as broadly useful. But I would contend that most are at best ambivalent about the brand, hardly an ideal emotional state if you’re in the business of selling cars in large quantities, especially following a lengthy hiatus. But of course what Olivier doesn’t want to say is who Fiat really wants to emulate.
Because the forthcoming Fiat Aegea or whatever it is to be called, will not be like IKEA at all. It will be more like Linda Jackson’s nu-Citroën. Low tech, keenly priced, with an emphasis on function and value for money. Like that Cactus which appears to be going gangbusters. Exactly where some of us have been saying Fiat should always have been and where Citroën really shouldn’t be within a nautical mile of – (but that’s another argument entirely).
So have Fiat finally woken up to the realisation that the European car buying public are not prepared to pay a premium price for a car with a Fiat badge on the nose? Because 500 derivations aside, (and that horse will bolt before long) it’s the value isles all the way now. But not flat-pack of course. That would be ridiculous.