This Stings: Coronavirus Comes for the Fiat 500L


Of all the production upsets born of coronavirus-caused supply chain disruptions, the idling of Fiat Chrysler’s Kragujevac, Serbia assembly plant is certainly not near the top. Not for American consumers, anyway.

The automaker announced Friday that the plant, home to the unloved Fiat 500L, will be offline until sometime late in the month. If U.S. inventory suffered, would anyone notice?

As reported by Reuters, Kragujevac will have to postpone downtime already scheduled for the plant. The dried-up components sourced from a virus-hit China include electronic parts, among them audio equipment.

Local media states that Kragujevac used just 25 percent of its available capacity last year, making it a serious underperformer — much like the model it produces.

While FCA discontinued the current-generation Fiat 500 in the U.S. for 2020, the ungainly 500L continues for the current model year. The brand’s future in the North American market looks exceedingly grim; current product plans, as well as FCA execs, don’t have much to say about what we can expect from the brand in the next year or two.

Just how unpopular is the Fiat 500L? By far the slowest-selling model in the brand’s meager lineup, the 500L found just 166 buyers in the fourth quarter of 2019. Full-year sales amounted to 771 vehicles, which was down 45 percent from 2018. The previous year’s sales were down 15 percent from the year before that. A trend, one might say.

In Canada last month, 500L sales rose 100 percent, year over year… because the country’s dealers sold one. Full-year totals for 2019 show Canadians bought 12 500Ls, down eight percent (one vehicle) from 2018.

So, while the shuttering of the Serbian FCA plan won’t have much of an impact on the automaker’s bottom line, and certainly won’t disrupt dealer activity in this continent, it is notable for being the first instance of a European plant shutting down due to the viral outbreak.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]