Thursday , December 14 2017
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The New Motor City

Summary:
GM’s Buick division is doing extremely well . . . in China. The Chinese own Volvo. And may soon own Jeep – one of the few still-viable pieces of what used to be Chrysler. For now, it’s FiatChrysler. Emphasis on for now. Fiat invested in what was just Chrysler, hoping to use the once-Big-Three company as a kind of Mulberry Harbor – the floating piers used by the Allies during the Normandy invasion toward the end of WW II to establish a beachhead in Europe – only this time in America and cars rather than troops. But unlike the Normandy invasion, the Fiat invasion has been a flop so far. Sales of the company’s signature car – the 500 mini-car – are down almost 50 percent to just over 1,000 cars a month from a high of about 2,500 cars a month back in 2014, two

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GM’s Buick division is doing extremely well . . . in China. The Chinese own Volvo. And may soon own Jeep – one of the few still-viable pieces of what used to be Chrysler.

For now, it’s FiatChrysler.

Emphasis on for now.

Fiat invested in what was just Chrysler, hoping to use the once-Big-Three company as a kind of Mulberry Harbor – the floating piers used by the Allies during the Normandy invasion toward the end of WW II to establish a beachhead in Europe – only this time in America and cars rather than troops. But unlike the Normandy invasion, the Fiat invasion has been a flop so far.

Sales of the company’s signature car – the 500 mini-car – are down almost 50 percent to just over 1,000 cars a month from a high of about 2,500 cars a month back in 2014, two years after Fiat’s return to America.

And that’s the high water mark.   

Time to buy old US gold coins

Other Fiat models aren’t doing nearly as well.

Sales of the 500L – an upsized version of the 500 – are as lifeless as Dracula’s corpse, with the difference that Dracula rises at night. Fiat hasn’t sold more than 184 in a month so far this year. And that was a good month for the 500L. A bad month was February; 72 cars got bought and that’s it.

The only thing that seems to help boost Fiat’s stock is the rumor about Jeep. The Chinese are very interested in buying the one un-cankered portion of the FiatChrysler conglomerate – chiefly because China is a kind of Asian revivification of 1950s America and its middle class desires large, powerful vehicles – like the SUVs Jeep specializes in and because it has a rising middle class that’s able to afford them.

America’s middle class, meanwhile, continues to wane like Hugh Hefner’s bedroom prowess.

It’s not that Americans have changed their minds and no longer want large, powerful cars. The problem is their buying power has been gimped. Their incomes are lower, the cumulative bite of taxes higher and things like health care now cost the average person probably three times what they did back in 1970, leaving not much in the way of disposable income for things like cars.

And while small cars with small engines are not unreasonably priced (on an inflation-adjusted basis) big cars with big engines have grown exorbitantly expensive and thus, beyond their means.

Consider, for instance, the flat-lined Dodge/Chrysler portfolio, starting with the Dodge Charger sedan.

This car is, in terms of its general layout – rear-drive, heavy steel frame, V8 engine – very similar to the cars middle class and even working class Americans routinely drove during the heyday of America’s working and middle class, from (roughly) the mid-late 1950s through the mid-late 1970s.    

What’s not similar – and accounts for the sales plummet – is the price.

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Eric Peters

Eric started out writing about cars for mainstream media outlets such as The Washington Times, Detroit News and Free Press, Investors Business Daily, The American Spectator, National Review, The Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal.

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