Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

A Gucci Fiat? You Bet!

Fiat Gucci 500

Talk about Italian style. Fiat has announced it is hooking up with Gucci to design a Gucci Fiat 500. The pint size convertible will feature Gucci’s green-and-red stripe along the side of the car. It will also be trimmed out in leather. In short, it will be dripping in Gucci style. Fiat will unveil the stylish 500 during Fashion Week in New York next month.

As intriguing as the limited edition Fiat 500 will be, it's the reaction to the car that puzzles me. I've already heard a few people say, "A Gucci Fiat 500? That's ridiculous." I'm amused by this reaction for a couple of reasons. First, this is a limited edition car designed to make a statement, not to be a mass market seller. Second, Fiat needs to do whatever it can to gain recognition and turn heads in the U.S. On both accounts, Fiat hooking up with Gucci is a smart move.

Still, that's not what many people will say. Why? Part of it stems from the fact many will view the Gucci Fiat 500 as Fiat trying to go upscale. A move that would seem to be a stretch for a car that sells for less than $20,000. Another reason some will roll their eyes about Gucci Fiat is because they see Fiat as Fiat was 25 or 30 years ago. Back then, it was a flawed company and its cars were a mess. Not anymore.

It's way too early to say whether Fiat 500 will be as successful in the U.S. as Mini or if it will struggle mightily as the Smart Car did. But so far, I like the moves Fiat has made in setting up its dealer network and laying the groundwork to ramp up sales across the country. Now Fiat needs to capture the imagination of buyers. If adding a limited edition Gucci Fiat 500 will help do that, then Fiat's latest Italian job is a step in the right direction.

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