FIAT 500. Italy, 1957 (relaunched 2007)
FIAT’s decision to revive its iconic ‘Cinquecento‘ city car proved to be a smart one. Since making its comeback in 2007, more than 1.5 million cars have rolled off the Polish assembly line, and few would dispute the positive contribution the 500 has made to propping up the FIAT brand.
The FIAT 500 is a character car that, like the similarly-revived MINI and VW Beetle, relies heavily on fashion and lifestyle content. Buying a Cinquecento is pitched as a decision to join a trendy new movement. To validate and maintain its fashion credentials, FIAT must use fashion thinking and show the 500 continually evolving and involved in the culture.
But carmakers face more constraints than fashion labels when it comes to innovating products from one season to the next. Consequently, soft product makeovers and lifestyle product collections give FIAT infinitely more viable (and target audience-appropriate) platforms for highlighting its brand’s relevance.
To validate the 500’s style positioning, special edition vehicles are created in collaboration with fashion big-hitters like Gucci, Guerlain and GQ. Beyond the fashion formula, custom and concept vehicles by the likes of Zagato and Ron Arad, provide a sense of substance and validity, while lifestyle collaborations with icons of Italian product design and urban life like SMEG and Bialetti fortify the Cinquecento legend.
When FIAT details its special and limited edition cars, it uses a level of care more characteristic of a luxury brand. Unlike the lazy, exclusive-colour-plus-badge formula used by other brands in its class, FIAT goes to great lengths to build its partners’ identities into the Cinquecento experience. Likewise, promotional campaigns and events are heavily flavoured with the look and feel of its partner brands. Reciprocal co-branded products like Gucci loafers provide subtle, yet important, confirmation of the 500’s place among the style elite.
In the world of automotive brand extension, scale models and toys are bread-and-butter business: always lucrative, seldom newsworthy. By contrast, when it connected with Barbie for the iconic doll’s 50th anniversary , FIAT was able to create a global news event. As brands that occupy a similar adjacency to the world of glamour, the brand fit is perfect, especially for consumers who value each brand’s pop-cultural heritage and charmed by the collaboration’s playful self-awareness.
“FIAT 500 – the Car Brand that uses Fashion Thinking” is a post from Collaboration Generation: a series profiling companies who use brand innovation platforms to double down on specialness, and extend their reach and influence.