Car plus fashion = failure for Italian automaker

A collaboration between Italian brands Fiat and Gucci has failed to impress Chinese consumers.

Sales of Fiat's iconic 500 model, with special design features by fashion house Gucci, have been disappointing in China. The Italian automaker sold less than 600 units of the entire 500 range in China last year, according to HIS Automotive, a research firm.

Fiat 500 Gucci

The Gucci Fiat 500 has failed to impress  Image: 500byGucci

The figures could be ominous for Renault and PSA Peugeot Citreon, who are also hoping to capitalise on Chinese consumers’ love for European brands.

The Italian fashion brand teamed up with Fiat to create the special edition compact car, which the automaker called a “fashion statement you can drive.” However, despite Chinese shoppers' predilection for big brand names, a rise in luxury car sales, Gucci’s global fashion pedigree and numerous opulent launch parties, the 500 by Gucci series failed to excite audiences.

According to GAC Fiat General Manager, John Burton, Fiat’s main struggle is its brand identity. “We’ve got to make a stronger effort to link our products to the Italian clothing and lifestyle”, claimed Burton, and “raise awareness of [Fiat’s] brand significantly across China.”

However, as conspicuous consumption wanes in the face of Premier Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption, it is possible that the days of flaunting Gucci bags are numbered. Fiat will have to do a lot more than piggyback off a fellow Italian brand if it is to tempt consumers away from German marques.