2013 Fiat 500e Electric Car 'Sold Out' In California

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Fiat has never hidden the fact that its 500e electric car had been developed primarily for compliance reasons, thus there was little surprise when it was announced that sales would be limited to the state of California, at least, initially.

It looks like Fiat may have reason to speed up plans to offer the 500e in other states, however, as news that the car is already sold out for the year has emerged.

The information was revealed by Fiat’s U.S. chief, Jason Stoicevich, who spoke recently with Ward’s Auto.

Unfortunately, Stoicevich didn’t mention whether he was talking about the 2013 calendar year, which only has six months left to go or whether he means the upcoming 2014 model year which starts next month and runs until June of next year.

Additionally, Stoicevich didn’t mention how many examples of the 500e Fiat had originally planned to sell. The number could be quite low considering the 500e was developed primarily for compliance reasons.

He did, however, mention that the market for electric cars in California was doing well, which suggests that volumes for the Fiat 500e may be increased given the car’s initial success.

As we’ve previously reported, Fiat has a three-part rollout plan for the 500e, with California its first destination, followed by a second phase that presumably includes the dozen or so other states that use California's emissions standards.

The question now is one of timing, but given the 500e’s success so far Fiat’s rollout plan could end up happening sooner rather than later.


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Comments (26)
  1. Well, if they're "losing money for each one" then why sell 1 more than they have to?

    If they're including R&D, tooling, etc. in those losses then obviously selling more of them spreads the losses out to the point where revenue exceeds them.

    And _every_ car has a bunch of R&D, tooling, etc. priced into it, heck a pickup truck refresh can cost $1B. You don't say those are 'losing money on each one' during the first month of sales..

  2. I doubt Fiat looses money on every car they build. It basically consists of drivetrain that should cost no more than $15K (including an ~$8-10K battery)build into the cheap Fiat 500 glider. I can't see that adding up to marginal production cost exceeding income generated by this $33K car. If it's sold out Fiat will no doubt build more so it can retrieve more of the R&D that went into it.

  3. Don't forget value of selling a 500e allows Fiat to sell X number of other Fiat & Chrysler vehicles in California and the other 21 Part 177 states. The profit generated by selling one Fiat 500e is much greater than a single 500e.

    To say Fiat looses money on selling 500e ignores the money it will not be able to make in selling the X number of other non-compliant vehicles. Any statement to the contrary is just misinformation. This is big money, and Fiat (like Honda and GM) would not be selling BEVs unless they could earn bigger profits!

  4. @Brian: It's not profit. The loss on each 500e is presumably lower than the fines Chrysler-Fiat would have to pay for not complying with the CARB ZEV mandate.

  5. @Chris O: Why do you say "Fiat will no doubt build more" 500e vehicles if it loses money on every one?

    Isn't that rather like the old joke about losing money on your good but making it up in volume?

    It is quite clear to me that Fiat, Honda, and Toyota will make precisely the number of their compliance cars needed to fulfill their CARB ZEV mandate, and not a single one more. Ford likely falls into that category; I'm somewhat reserving judgment on GM, but skeptical.

  6. @ John Voelcker:

    Keep in mind that production cost always has a fixed and a variable component.

    So what I was saying is that I expect the marginal cost of producing an extra unit of the 500E to be lower than the income generated by this vehicle which is the sales price or lease income and like Brian pointed out ZEV credit income. The more units Fiat sells the more it can make up from the fixed cost (R&D, setting up a production line) that went into it. As long as the cost of building an extra unit is lower than the revenue it generates there is an incentive to build more units.

  7. @Chris: Fiat does not get "ZEV credit income." The only maker that earns revenue from selling its ZEV credits is Tesla, because it has no gasoline cars to offset.

    Every other maker, including Chrysler-Fiat, has to produce and sell a certain number of ZEVs that varies with the number of gasoline/diesel cars it sells within California.

    Chrysler will build that number of ZEVs to avoid steep fines, but seems very unlikely to build more than that (even if there is demand). That's the only way it would have *excess* ZEV credits to sell--but I suspect those cars would cost the company more to build than the credits would bring in income.

    I'm at a Chrysler event today; will try to ask.

  8. @John Voelcker:

    Keep in mind that "income" can take many forms. It can take the form of money etc. one receives but also the form of money etc. one doesn't need to spend. Maybe the term "benefit" is less confusing in this context.

    Not having to pay fines or third parties for ZEV credits therefore also is a form of income/benefit for Fiat.

    As I understand it ZEV credits are valid for some (3?) years so selling more cars now eases future pressure, another incentive to sell them while the selling is good.

    Please ask Chrysler if their marginal production cost is less than the income the 500e generates. I'm sure you will get an honest answer about that. After all it's only about cost and about a vehicle they really don't want to do.

  9. ...BTW, Tesla isn't the only carmaker with a ZEV credit surplus, so is Nissan.

  10. Like Kenneth, I ask the question as to why sell more than required of a car that loses money on every sale? My understanding is that even removing development costs from the equation, every electric loses money on manufacture.

    Even the first generation Volt is expected to lose money. Some manufacturers embrace this fact by noting that they gain valuable information for subsequent models, and establish good-will with the public. (See Toyota's Prius.)

    Other manufacturers simply want to comply with the California requirements and pretend to support the environment. (See Fiat or Toyota Rav4.) While a few, don't advertise, but at the same time make the vehicle available throughout the U.S. (See Ford's Focus Electric).

  11. Nissan say they make money I believe. Also, just because a car loses money in its first year or two, doesn't mean that 5 years down the line it won't be their biggest seller. That's what happened to Toyota with the Prius!

  12. Prius didn't make money on per car basis until 2006/2007 model year and that doesn't include the original R&D investment.

    Nissan's claim of profit per car doesn't include initial R&D and tooling cost either.

  13. GM claims their costs on parts and labor in the Volt are $24K, and they sell them for $39K. It's also commonly stated that they are losing money. It's just not true. They will turn a profit at the current price when they reach about 75K sold of the Volt and ampera, and the caddy version, all of which have the same drivetrain. They will near that this year.

  14. When it is "sold out". What is the volume we are talking about here? 500? 600? Honda was sold out b/c it had low volume too...

  15. I would assume that Fiat's requirement for how many cars they are required to sell is determined by how much business they do in California. Honda was required to make 1,100 Fit EVs. It's probably safe to assume that the Fiat 500e is fewer than that. My (probably faulty) assumption is that Fiat sells far fewer cars in CA than Honda does.

  16. @Jeff: It's not Fiat. It's the combined Chrysler-Fiat, since the U.S. maker is now controlled by Fiat.

    And Chrysler is the last capable of selling passenger cars; about 70 percent of their sales are light trucks (crossovers, minivans, pickup trucks).

    The 2012-2014 CARB ZEV rules applied to the 6 highest-selling automakers in CA (GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan) but the list will add additional makers come 2015.

  17. if leaves continue to drop from the tree, it may spark the car companies to become 500 times more fit and focused, and give all us consumers something to rave about.

  18. I would agree with that assumption. But even if it is 800 (a guess out of thin air), then that is a pretty fast still. There are 800 people willing to choose the Fiat 500e over a Leaf or SparkEV. IMHO, both the Leaf and SparkEV are better than the 500e.

  19. I am single and have no kids.,If the 500e had fast charge support, I would really consider getting it right now. It's a neat little car.

  20. Well, beside the "cool factor", there is really nothing the 500e is superior at.

    I guess cool factors sell the car.

    No fast charging, Not that fast, not that roomy for 4 people, not really a great range, not all that cheap either (similar to other EV leasing price), but it is a "cool" car...

  21. Sold out, good, that'll give Fiat executives something to think about.

  22. Sold out? How can they say that? Haven't even seen one at local dealers or on the street. People usually want to test drive first.

  23. I wonder if Fiat would reconsider continuing production, if the 500e increases 1. name recognition and 2. benefits sales of other vehicles associated with it - halo effect. How do companies decide the halo effect is powerful enough to bank on to make the loss on a particular vehicle worth it? Anyone know?

  24. Why is auto industry so different from others? Despite significant demand for their products (EVs) and sold-outs, they still insist that nobody really wants electric car. Any other industry would ramp up the production and sell more. These guys just don't get it!

  25. oil still provides a major detriment

  26. It would be nice if the article would report details on the cost of the car (lease and purchase) and how much does a Californian pay out the door. I am sure this was mentioned in previous articles; but at the pace these pieces are coming out is impossible to follow every single one; and I really don't feel like digging.

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