the greenway girl

The FIAT 500 Abarth: Women Need Not Apply?

There is no “lady-like” way to put this, so I’m just going to say it…

I am SO OVER the collective North American automotive industry telling me repeatedly that the FIAT 500 Abarth is not for us girls…it’s for the guys.

The Abarth, a new high-performance version of the Fiat 500 that made its U.S. debut late last year in Los Angeles is set to be available at the end of March. And for the past three months I have become increasingly obsessed with every image, news story and blog post released on FIAT USA’s newest addition to its lineup. 

In January, at the Chicago Auto Show, Olivier Francois, head of the Fiat brand and chief marketing officer for Fiat for Chrysler Group, spoke about the company’s decision to feature Jennifer Lopez in their ad campaign for the FIAT 500 Gucci Special Edition, telling the media “Jennifer was for feminine buyers. Abarth is the attraction for masculine buyers".  Are you KIDDING me???

This probably isn’t going to go over well at the office but I will argue that Mr. Francois, as well as all of the major automotive blogs (penned by men) sparked this debate. So, as a woman in this industry, I’m just making one female opinion known. 

I’ve said it before; I am an unabashed girly-girl. I live for fashion and would practically put my life on the line if anyone ever threatened my shoe collection. But industry executives seem to have it in their heads that a woman that appreciates style can’t also appreciate performance. Once the owner of a 1994 Jaguar XJS V12 Convertible, not only can I appreciate performance, I demand it. And with the base MSRP of the Abarth nearly $1,500 lower than the Gucci Special Edition, it’s a no brainer.  

If I may offer a bit of insight to my male counterparts in this industry about the female psyche - I don’t know a single woman that was influenced to purchase the FIAT 500 Gucci Edition because of the J-Lo commercials.

As long as we are on the subject of commercials, one can hardly bring up the Abarth in conversation without addressing the head-turning and somewhat controversial ad that was actually released at the same time as the J-Lo commercials but until the Super Bowl, was not aired on TV. Again, industry media outlets including Autoweek and Ward’s Automotive stated that “Women were shocked and offended”.  Thank you for letting me know how I am supposed to feel…NOT!  

Truth be told, I thought the commercial was brilliant. Yes, it was extremely sexy but I didn’t see it as sexist. The difference? A beautiful woman that has the confidence and moxie to call a guy on his stuff. 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand wanting to appeal to a wider audience. However, given the fact that statistics show that over 80% of car buying decisions are affected by women, maybe the “industry experts” should throw out the marketing brief on this one and take a bit of advice? First, recognize that in today’s age of social media, brands are no longer created by a company alone, but rather, co-created with consumer opinion. Second, embrace the fact the fact that the Abarth has appeal for both sexes and that women are savvy enough to recognize and choose substance over insignia. And finally, stop trying to push female car culture back a couple of decades. 

This blog is the sole responsibility of its author. All content posted is purely of personal opinion of the author, based on current news stories in the public domain.