SCHAUMBURG, IL – If Lincoln can enlist actor Matthew McConaughey to hawk its products, might Fiat seek a little divine intervention and enlist Pope Francis to promote its vehicle lineup?
That’s the question posed to Nicole Longhini, Fiat brand manager, at a preview here of FCA US ʼ16 models.
“Those are the decisions that come from higher ups,” Longhini says, referring to Fiat execs in suits rather than any men of the cloth.
The Pope chose to avoid riding in a luxury car during his recent visit to the U.S. and opted instead for a Fiat 500L.
Longhini declines to comment as to whether the brand has any plans to take advantage of the Pope’s choice of wheels in any promotions or advertising, perhaps using filmed footage of him being chauffeured in the small car.
As for what plans are in store for the Fiat the Pontiff used for his Popemobile during his U.S. visit? “I can’t speak to that,” she says.
Longhini would comment only on the new subcompact Fiat 500X CUV for ʼ16 that offers a choice of front-wheel drive or, for the first time in a 500 model, all-wheel drive.
“It’s going to bring more people into our showrooms,” she says. “Before the AWD 500X, people in the northern Snow Belt only looked at our cars in the summer.”
Longhini refrains from saying whether any other AWD Fiats are in the works to join the 500X in Snow Belt garages.
“Right now we are concentrating on launching the 500X and are working on this car first.”
Through September, U.S. sales of the new model total 3,456 units.
Dan Cook, Ram brand marketing manager, also at the FCA preview here, displayed a couple of new fullsize truck editions for ʼ16: the Ram Rebel, aimed at off-road enthusiasts, and the Ram Limited, targeted at luxury-vehicle buyers.
Cook is asked what, if any, effect the trouble Volkswagen is having from fudging diesel vehicle emissions levels is having on Ram diesel sales.
“Our sales are strong and keep going up month over month. Our Ram diesel has continued to prove its 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km) and we don’t see any concern in the future. We have good relations with our diesel provider (VM Motori).”
Cook says he knows of no new or extra emissions testing that will be done on the diesels in Ram trucks.
“Our testing is already stringent,” he says.
Diesel sales are influenced primarily by two factors, the Ram executive says, the longer driving range they enjoy over gasoline engines and the price of diesel versus gasoline at the pump.
“Diesel-fuel prices have been down lately and have come down in California,” he notes.
General Motors is about to roll out updated full size pickup trucks and Ford F-Series supplies are finally catching up with demand, so Cook was asked if Ram plans any defensive moves.
“We don’t talk about future products, but we’ll have the two new editions, the Rebel and Limited,” he replies. “We’ll adjust accordingly.”