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If It Sounds Too Good To Be True…

January 10, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Media 18 Comments

Twitter & Facebook were buzzing last Friday over a couple of blog posts that an urban Fiat dealership was to open in downtown St. Louis at 1015 Locust — less than six blocks from my loft. Just before I hit share my internal skeptic kicked and said: “Really?”

“Count On Downtown has confirmed with the broker of the 1015 Locust building that Fiat is planning a dealership, a Fiat Studio in Fiat lingo, on this corner of 11th & Locust. Note: Nothing is final yet. If everything works out, including permits from the city, Fiat Studio is expected to open in March 2012.” (Count on Downtown: Fiat Coming to Downtown St. Louis)

“Fiat will soon announce a move into 1015 Locust Street in downtown St. Louis. As the car dealer as reentered the American market in partnership with Chrysler, Fiat is looking to place Fiat dealerships in about 165 locations, concentrating on urban areas that have a high number of registered small cars. 1015 carries a modernist skin on a 1921 building and while the original was surely beautiful, Fiat seems to think its modern look is a good fit for the brand.” (nextSTL: Fiat “Studio” to Open in Downtown St. Louis)

ABOVE: Post on nextSTL.com with photoshop image of Fiat name on the building and an update that says "We apologize for what looks to be incorrect information."

As you can see the post was very popular on both Facebook & Twitter.

The street level retail space at 1015 Locust was created a few years ago by sectioning off part of the lobby. It’s a tiny retail storefront. Urban dealerships still need offices, parts departments, service bays and inventory storage. In places like Manhattan these are done vertically because the cost of land makes it cost prohibitive to do a typical suburban dealership. The idea of an auto dealership in 1015 Locust is laughable. But it got traction because  we want to believe such positive stories.

ABOVE: The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis tweeted the story
ABOVE: David Nicklaus of the Post-Dispatch set the record straight
ABOVE: nextSTL admitted their post was false via Twitter

The real story is the potential creative use to fill a vacant storefront space:

Bryan Hughes, sales manager for Fiat of Creve Coeur, said today the dealership is considering use of the corner street-level space at 1015 Locust Street downtown. Hughes said the spot would not be a dealership but would serve as a Fiat “display case” like those dealers sometimes set up inside shopping malls. (STLtoday.com)

Now that’s a good story! But, it’s kind of a let down compared to a full dealership. It’s the story these blogs should have run rather than suggest we are getting an urban dealership like in Manhattan.

My love affair with the Fiat 500 began after I realized the shortcomings of the smart fortwo.

ABOVE: A salesman at Fiat of Creve Coeur pulls a Fiat 500 out for my test ride, June 2011

I attended the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show a year ago so I could see one in person but none were there. Finally in June I drove out to the Fiat of Creve Coeur on Lindbergh to see them up close. Ignoring the fact I drive 3,000 miles locally per year and have no money for a different vehicle, the Fiat 500 is perfect for me.  I’ve even picked out the color I’d like: Grigio (gray). I need to buy a lottery ticket every so often because that’s the only way I’ll be able to have one.  Sales so far haven’t been that hot so buying a used one wouldn’t be easy.

J-Lo may have shamelessly plugged the 500 on awards show, but all the glitz and glamour couldn’t obscure the painful truth. Fiat sales of just under 20,000 in 2011 were not even half the annual goal of 50,000. It’ll improve in 2012, but Fiat has a long ways to go in re-establishing itself in the U.S. (CNBC)

Thursday I will post about the last auto dealership that existed in downtown St. Louis.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mike says:

    The Fiat 500 is a neat car. Despite Fiat’s “fix it again tony” reputation, I was set to buy the convertible until I realized that I will soon be transferred to a city where a a Fiat  dealership doesn’t exist, and I would have had to drive 160 miles to the nearest “salon” for service. NOT A GOOD IDEA, especially given their reputation for mechanical failure If Chrysler/Fiat wants to promote this car, they should remove the exclusivity that they’re attempting to associate with it, and they should allow all their existing Chrysler dealerships to sell and maintain the vehicle. They can initially train 3 service techs per dealership for this purpose. It’s no wonder Chrysler/Fiat isn’t selling Fiat 500’s., and I suspect things will not improve until they make sales/service more accessible to their potential customers.

     
  2. Mike says:

    The Fiat 500 is a neat car. Despite Fiat’s “fix it again tony” reputation, I was set to buy the convertible until I realized that I will soon be transferred to a city where a a Fiat  dealership doesn’t exist, and I would have had to drive 160 miles to the nearest “salon” for service. NOT A GOOD IDEA, especially given their reputation for mechanical failure If Chrysler/Fiat wants to promote this car, they should remove the exclusivity that they’re attempting to associate with it, and they should allow all their existing Chrysler dealerships to sell and maintain the vehicle. They can initially train 3 service techs per dealership for this purpose. It’s no wonder Chrysler/Fiat isn’t selling Fiat 500’s., and I suspect things will not improve until they make sales/service more accessible to their potential customers.

     
  3. Frank DeGraaf says:

    I spoke with the broker and a representative of CB Richard Ellis. They both confirmed that a Fiat “dealership” would go into this space. I never implied that it would be a full-service (maintenance) dealership, because even I understand that the space would not be suited for that, let alone the environmental issues that would have to be negated . However, the space will be used to display and sell Fiat 500’s (I call that a “dealership”, I don’t know what else to call it), a significant and positive development for downtown St. Louis.

    Because it was unclear how it will exactly turn out, I wrote (in the second sentence of the post):  “Note: Nothing is final yet.” 
    We’ll have to wait and see what the end result will look like.Frank DeGraafCount On Downtown.ComP.S. I am glad I was able to amuse you with this scoop 😉

     
  4. Frank DeGraaf says:

    I spoke with the broker and a representative of CB Richard Ellis. They both confirmed that a Fiat “dealership” would go into this space. I never implied that it would be a full-service (maintenance) dealership, because even I understand that the space would not be suited for that, let alone the environmental issues that would have to be negated . However, the space will be used to display and sell Fiat 500’s (I call that a “dealership”, I don’t know what else to call it), a significant and positive development for downtown St. Louis.

    Because it was unclear how it will exactly turn out, I wrote (in the second sentence of the post):  “Note: Nothing is final yet.” 
    We’ll have to wait and see what the end result will look like.Frank DeGraafCount On Downtown.ComP.S. I am glad I was able to amuse you with this scoop 😉

     
    • I’ve seen new cars displayed at various malls and at The Promenade, neither are dealerships. To sell a new vehicle at a location a state license must be obtained.

       
  5. Anonymous says:

    The new Scion iQ is another intriguing small car, bigger than a smart but smaller than a 500, but Car and Driver really hated its transmission.  The real challenge for all of these, especially in St. Lous, is the “why?” part of the equation.  We have few on-street parking areas where you need a tiny car to squeeze into a space, and nearly all of our off-street spaces are full size ones.  Plus, these tiny cars don’t get nearly as good gas mileage as other, larger cars, like the Prius, Golf & Jetta diesels and even a Hyundai Elantra.  Or you can buy a used car for a lot less and afford to pay more for gas (and less for taxes and insurance).

     
  6. JZ71 says:

    The new Scion iQ is another intriguing small car, bigger than a smart but smaller than a 500, but Car and Driver really hated its transmission.  The real challenge for all of these, especially in St. Lous, is the “why?” part of the equation.  We have few on-street parking areas where you need a tiny car to squeeze into a space, and nearly all of our off-street spaces are full size ones.  Plus, these tiny cars don’t get nearly as good gas mileage as other, larger cars, like the Prius, Golf & Jetta diesels and even a Hyundai Elantra.  Or you can buy a used car for a lot less and afford to pay more for gas (and less for taxes and insurance).

     
  7. I’ve seen new cars displayed at various malls and at The Promenade, neither are dealerships. To sell a new vehicle at a location a state license must be obtained.

     
  8. Anonymous says:

    I think the key here is can I go in, get a test drive, and buy one?  Yes = dealership, I don’t care if I have to get it fixed in Creve Coeur. 

    If I can come in and look at three cars in the storefront, but have to head out to the county to drive and/or buy then it is not a dealership.

    Mini’s initial set-up was a sales showroom on Ladue in Clayton with a separate parts and maintenance just down the street.  But I looked, test drove, purchased and left the location on Ladue with my car.

     
  9. matthb says:

    I think the key here is can I go in, get a test drive, and buy one?  Yes = dealership, I don’t care if I have to get it fixed in Creve Coeur. 

    If I can come in and look at three cars in the storefront, but have to head out to the county to drive and/or buy then it is not a dealership.

    Mini’s initial set-up was a sales showroom on Ladue in Clayton with a separate parts and maintenance just down the street.  But I looked, test drove, purchased and left the location on Ladue with my car.

     
  10. Rick says:

    Lots of other city locations to build a state of the art service facility.

     
  11. Rick says:

    Lots of other city locations to build a state of the art service facility.

     
  12. Mike says:

    Rick I don’t think you’ll be seeing anything “Fiat” downtown anytime soon, unless it is a simple storefront which displays a few of its 500s. Fiat is going to have a hard time surviving. Only 20,000 units were sold the first year. (Don’t forget that Edsel sold 63,000 units their first year, and two years later they were history.) Unless Fiat seriously addresses their reliability issues and changes their marketing strategies, the USA version of Fiat will live on only in a select few’s memories.

     
  13. Mike says:

    Rick I don’t think you’ll be seeing anything “Fiat” downtown anytime soon, unless it is a simple storefront which displays a few of its 500s. Fiat is going to have a hard time surviving. Only 20,000 units were sold the first year. (Don’t forget that Edsel sold 63,000 units their first year, and two years later they were history.) Unless Fiat seriously addresses their reliability issues and changes their marketing strategies, the USA version of Fiat will live on only in a select few’s memories.

     
  14. Brian Wittling says:

    What reliability issues? 
    The problem is that Fiat only offers the 500 in the US with it’s largest, least efficient engine, and doesn’t even break 40mpg. Meanwhile, the rest of the world gets to choose from at least 4 different gas engine options, 2-3 clean Diesel options, and at least 3 different transmissions, and can buy a 500 that gets over 70mpg. 
    The failures of the 500 will be the same as the (not)SMART. with such stupid drivetrain options the question becomes “why” in a market saturated with unlimited free parking and cheap government subsidized fuel. 
    Meanwhile Fiat USA continues to market the 500 as a girls car and fashion accessory, rather than a smart economy car (which it isn’t since they don’t offer that here) and drag their feet getting a decent Abarth model to the US market.

     
  15. Brian Wittling says:

    What reliability issues? 
    The problem is that Fiat only offers the 500 in the US with it’s largest, least efficient engine, and doesn’t even break 40mpg. Meanwhile, the rest of the world gets to choose from at least 4 different gas engine options, 2-3 clean Diesel options, and at least 3 different transmissions, and can buy a 500 that gets over 70mpg. 
    The failures of the 500 will be the same as the (not)SMART. with such stupid drivetrain options the question becomes “why” in a market saturated with unlimited free parking and cheap government subsidized fuel. 
    Meanwhile Fiat USA continues to market the 500 as a girls car and fashion accessory, rather than a smart economy car (which it isn’t since they don’t offer that here) and drag their feet getting a decent Abarth model to the US market.

     
  16. Mike says:

    @Brian: The reliability issues I’m referring to are problems that have follewed Fiat for several years. These issues earned them the “fix it again, tony” reputation. These issues also forced them out of the American market until recently. I’m not saying that Fiats are unreliable. But Fiat hasn’t proven yet that they can build a reliable vehicle. Chrysler’s reputation is questionable, and when they joint-venture with Fiat, the platform gets a bit shakey. I agree that Fiat should have sent to the US all  the vehicles that offer 60-70 MPG, but they didn’t!  And if you want a 500, you’ll forgive their oversight and buy the car. I was willing to take a chance and purchase a 500 until I learned that I’m getting transferred to a city 160 miles to the nearest “salon”, in New Orleans. I don’t want to be stranded with a broken down Fiat in my driveway, wondering how I’m going to get it to New Orleans for service!

     
  17. Mike says:

    @Brian: The reliability issues I’m referring to are problems that have follewed Fiat for several years. These issues earned them the “fix it again, tony” reputation. These issues also forced them out of the American market until recently. I’m not saying that Fiats are unreliable. But Fiat hasn’t proven yet that they can build a reliable vehicle. Chrysler’s reputation is questionable, and when they joint-venture with Fiat, the platform gets a bit shakey. I agree that Fiat should have sent to the US all  the vehicles that offer 60-70 MPG, but they didn’t!  And if you want a 500, you’ll forgive their oversight and buy the car. I was willing to take a chance and purchase a 500 until I learned that I’m getting transferred to a city 160 miles to the nearest “salon”, in New Orleans. I don’t want to be stranded with a broken down Fiat in my driveway, wondering how I’m going to get it to New Orleans for service!

     

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