One of the things that has always interested me about global car culture is that the rest of the world has always perceived America as being a bunch of flag-waving country-lovers — and that may be true. But it isn’t how we buy our cars. Yet, interestingly enough, it’s exactly how Europe buys its cars.
Here’s what I mean: If you go to Germany, you will see scores of Volkswagens everywhere, because Volkswagen is a German car company. Head down to Italy, and those Volkswagens will be replaced with FIATs and Lancias — both Italian brands. In Spain, there are unbelievable numbers of SEATs, and Skodas dominate Eastern Europe. The French love their Peugeots and Citroens, while the British buy Vauxhalls and Fords (since they’ve long considered "British Ford" distinct from "American Ford"). In fact, it’s almost unbelievable how siloed the car markets are in Europe — all by country of origin.
Americans, meanwhile, do things differently. While American cars are fairly common here, you see a lot more variation on the roads, especially when it comes to cars from Asia, which Europeans never fully seemed to accept. Korean cars, American cars, European cars and Japanese cars all live together in a hodgepodge of automotive tastes, here in our country.
And that brings us to the Dodge Journey. You probably know the Dodge Journey as a fairly mediocre midsize crossover; a vehicle that’s not especially good, but not horribly bad; something you buy if you want three-row seating on the cheap. Italians, on the other hand, know the Dodge Journey a little differently. They know it as the FIAT Freemont. And over there, IT SELLS!
And I don’t just mean they sell a few of them. I mean it sells in MASSIVE numbers, to the point where you see dozens of them every single day you’re driving around. Here’s a car that seems rather dull and uninteresting to the average person, and possibly even uncompetitive to the average American, and yet they’re flying off the shelves in Italy. This in spite of the fact that it’s little disguised: They’ve changed the badges, they’ve added a diesel engine, and the popularity is off the charts.
Why has the Freemont found such popularity in Europe? It’s nicely sized, of course, and reasonably priced — but I think the real reason is a bit different: The FIAT Freemont sells so well because it has a FIAT badge on the front. SUVs are huge in Europe right now, with the Nissan Qashqai seemingly leading the market, and here’s an SUV from an "Italian brand" — and that makes it a direct hit in Italy.
Never mind the fact that it’s really just a Dodge Journey — designed for the U.S. market, built in Mexico — right up until they slap that FIAT badge on it. Find a Dodge Journey for sale
(Image credit: M 93 from Wikipedia)
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.