The "next wave" of Italian immigrants is coming to America, Fiat says in its new U.S. TV ad that begins running today. That's great news for Fiat dealers across the country who want more models to display in their showrooms. But how much will American consumers care?
For the first time in the year or so that Fiat has been advertising (again) in America, its new commercial, titled "Immigrants," leaves no doubt about the heritage of the company that owns Chrysler, or their cars.
The spot depicts all three members of the Fiat USA brand that are increasingly fillingl distribution pipelines in the United States — the standard Fiat 500, a convertible version and a souped-up Abarth version — plunging into the Italian seacoast and "swimming" to America, where they proceed to look good and cause head-scratching and then smiles as they emerge onto beaches on the Eastern Seaboard like some postindustrial lungfish.
"The next wave of Italians has come to America," the commercial concludes. "And they've come to party."
Trading so directly on Fiat's Italian heritage was considered a no-no when Fiat introduced its Americanized version of the 500 over a year ago. Apparently the thinking was that it was too soon after this foreign carmaker had rescued the corpse of Chrysler with the help of the U.S. government and taxpayers in 2009. And Chrysler's advertising at the time had remained focused on being the all-American brand "Imported From Detroit."
But times have changed. For one thing, Fiat's initial marketing forays — including the notoriously clunky music-video-style ad with Jennifer Lopez — failed to generate much interest. Also, while Fiat's U.S. sales now are way ahead of last year, the competition in the tiny-car genre has intensified, and Fiat could use some real differentiators. And third: Chrysler has stopped pounding its patriotic drum.
So Fiat's new ad "should stand for the spirit of the Italian culture," Stan Richards, head of the Richards Group that created the new spot, told the New York Times. "That should pervade everything we do."
To anyone who understands what's happening in the European market these days, the image of countless Fiats throwing themselves into the ocean in the hopes of finding a market overseas is more appropriate than perhaps Fiat intended. That's because it's getting more and more difficult to sell Fiats in financially troubled Italy, where Fiat sales plummeted by more than 23 percent in June. The brand is struggling in the rest of Europe, along with other carmakers, too.
But that's the wrong focus. Every Italian immigrant to the U.S. left something behind. For these happy Fiats, America promises a better life.