Co-Creation of the Fiat 500

2
2026

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C.K. Prahalad should still see it as a shining example of company and customer co-operation, collaboration and co-creation. And, it doesn’t look like it will stop with the car. A new form of relationship…?
A little history. The Fiat 500 was to Italy what the VW bug was to Germany and the Mini was to England. Now, as with the other two, the Fiat 500 is back. But, the return is hardly a copy cat phenomenon.
This is user-generated content taken another step or two. But, it is clear that Fiat is not playing up the user generated issue because it is a hot topic in a web 2.0 world. Rather, Fiat has engineered a way to get customers engaged on- and offline. I believe they are on their way to nurturing mutually meaningful relationships.
Customers are:
Engaged in the design. 500 days before the launch Fiat invited potential buyers to a web site to design accessories for the car. 8000 did so! Now there are over 100 accessories available. Accessories customers find relevant and appealing. The most popular, a clear glass roof. Second most popular, Italian colors as racing strips. Italian pride (emotion).
Engaged in the Launch. Customers generated the themes for advertising. Think about it! Who knows how to reach potential customers in a more meaningful way than customers who are already involved?
Engaged in Customization of their Car. Ford and Chrysler offered online “build your car” tools for years. Fiat has taken it a step further. They add emotions. One example is by listing the passionate ways existing users describe accessories.
Engaged in their Web Presence. Each visitor to the Fiat website can customize the look and feel of their own web site. This isn’t just appearance. It enables customers to get the information that is meaningful to them—front row and center.
Customer involvement helped sell 57,000 cars in the first month (July ’07). I predicted the way Fiat is continuing to involve customers in the ownership experience will lead to a growing customer base. Perhaps more importantly, they are nurturing highly engaged and committed customers who are very likely to be passionate evangelists.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor

2 COMMENTS

  1. John

    I have followed the co-creation of the new FIAT 500 with interest. Indeed, I have been one of the co-creators, along with many other people.

    In contrast to the somewhat unsuccessful relaunch of the new Beetle, which was an entirely inside-out, VW affair, the Fiat 500 is now the de facto ‘people’s car’.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  2. Graham,

    Your label “the real people’s car” does seem to capture what going on with Fiat.

    What impresses me is the efforts to make the customer involvement sustained, that is, not just about the launch and sales. As with many initiatives there is a tipping point. It think Fiat is getting close to the tipping point.

    Interestingly, one of the Fiat500 blogs pick-up my post and were thrilled that they were getting attention from customer-focused business strategy people.

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers:How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.

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