California Schemin’ Fiat Gets Creative For Launch of 500e Forbes

7 Июн 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи California Schemin’ Fiat Gets Creative For Launch of 500e Forbes отключены
Fiat 500e Electric Cars

California Schemin': Fiat Gets Creative For Launch of 500e

As part of the grand prize of the “Jonesin’ for a Fiat 500e” photo contest, winner will receive surf lessons from professional surfer Brianna Cope. (Photo credit: Mitch McEwen)

Fiat dealers in California are about to benefit from a triple whammy: the appearance of the new Fiat 500e in their “studios,” a timely co-promotion of the vehicle with hip Jones Soda that includes surfing lessons for a contest winner, and the appearance of the new Fiat 500L right behind it.

Any kind of jolt for electric-vehicle sales would be welcome by their advocates, and the new battery-powered Fiat now reaching dealer showrooms in California may be the right candidate in the right place to provide it. Reviewers are calling it a fun ride regardless of its propulsion system, and Fiat’s innovative $199-a-month lease offer on the 500e should make it attractive to some mainstream buyers who previously wouldn’t have considered an all-electric vehicle.

And of course it’ll be fun to look at. “Style and design were not sacrificed to bring the ‘e’ to market,” Casey Hurbis, head of brand communications for Fiat North America, told me. “It’s got that iconic Italian style and look, the feel and design of the 500, without sacrificing anything.” In fact, the 500e is nearly identical to the standard 500, he said, “except for front- and back-end honeycomb grilles and some badgeing.”

Still, none of the enthusiasm for the 500e can hide the fact that EVs remain anathema to many, an acquired taste for a few and environmental red meat for a handful.

In fact, even Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne recently complained about the reality that “for every 500 electric that we produce, even after all the subsidies, we will lose about 10,000 bucks a car,” according to the Detroit Free Press. And he knocked governments, including the Obama administration, for leaning dangerously on carmakers by “rushing precipitously into embracing electric vehicles as the only technological solution.”

Hurbis acknowledged the difficulty but noted that “at the end of the day, with all that being said, there’s certainly a … demand” for EVs. “That market segment is growing, and more manufacturers are coming to the marketplace. For us, the goal is to take [the 500e] and differentiate it from the others.”

In that process, Fiat 500e has some advantages beyond appealing styling and the lease deal. Its 87-mile single-charge range, EPA-rated, is at the top of the range for electric cars except for the Tesla Model S, which stickers for more than twice the $32,500 list price of the 500e (before government tax credits).

And Fiat has come up with a clever program with Enterprise rental it calls it calls ePass, which entitles buyers of the 500e to use rental vehicles for up to 12 days a year for free, with loaners to include the gas-powered Fiat 500, new Fiat 500L, Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200.

The necessity for such a program is an awful concession by any EV maker on behalf of the entire electric-car segment because it gives away the argument that battery-powered cars can be truly mainstream vehicles at this point. But it sure is likely to come in handy in selling a Fiat 500e to someone who’s enthused about the car, the technology and its green chops but wants to be able to drive to the next major city and can’t count on making it there given the current paucity of EV charging stations just about everywhere so far.

Fiat 500e Electric Cars

“Our thinking was that this is addressing just another dynamic in the shopping process,” Hurbis said. “If your grandma lives in Los Angeles but you live in San Diego” ePass is better than “making alternative plans for transportation. We’re trying to make [500e purchase] more consumer-friendly and overcome any barriers to entry.”

Hurbis believes that the imminent arrival of the new Fiat 500L — about two feet longer and six inches wider than the 500 with an all-new 160hp engine — will quickly widen Fiat’s rather narrow nationwide audience and quiet grumbling from some U.S. Fiat dealers who have been craving a broader lineup than just various flavors of the regular 500.

“And for California studios especially it couldn’t be a more exciting time,” he said.

And back in California, Fiat’s new “Jonesin’ for a Fiat 500e” promotion with Jones Soda took shape once the two brands realized that Fiat was planning to roll out its new California-only 500e this spring at the same time that Jones was planning to launch distribution of its new Natural Jones Soda in California.

The promotion is a summer-photo contest featuring the new all-electric version of the Fiat 500 and the lighter-calorie, reduced-sugar line of new sodas introduced by one of the original boutique-soft-drink brands. They’ll be seeking submissions of photos of any Fiat 500 model via social media, partnering in sampling Natural Jones Soda and providing peeks at the 500e at California surfing events and other showcases, and even giving away Natural Jones to visitors to Fiat showrooms in the state.

The grand-prize winner of the photo contest will receive surfing lessons from professional surfer Brianna Cope, a Fiat 500 (or 500e if a California resident) and his or her winning photo on a run of Natural Jones Soda in 2014. Jones, of course, has long been known for running photos of its customers on its bottle labels.

Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars

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