Always be yourself... do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it." When saying this, martial arts legend Bruce Lee had in mind those among us who strive constantly to be something we're not. But this quote from the great man is just as apt in the case of Fiat's Stilo hatchback, which wanted to be a Volkswagen Golf but failed spectacularly in its aim.
Fiat's Bravo and Brava from the Nineties were peppy little cars that were Italian in every sense. But seeing the immense success of the Volkswagen Golf, Fiat decided to model its Bravo replacement on the VW hatch, hoping it would be able to replicate the same sales feat as the German car. When the five-door Stilo made its debut in 2001, it looked like a hybrid between a MkIII Golf and an Austin Maestro. It also chucked the Bravo's fully independent suspension in favour of a semi-independent suspension like the one in the Golf. Heavy, underpowered, and bland in its styling, the Stilo failed to impress Fiat's target customers who, ironically, found it to be too German. Reports about major reliability issues and technical and electrical snags including airbag system failures only added to its woes. With sales dwindling fast, Fiat found the hard way that it would have been wiser to keep the car true to its Italian roots than try to be German. Even a high-profile campaign featuring Michael Schumacher couldn't revive its fortunes, and in 2007, the model was withdrawn from the European market although it continued to be on sale in South America for a few more years. By then, Fiat had incurred a loss of €2.1 billion, making it one of the biggest loss-making cars in Europe.