Place your bids as buyers go 500 crazy

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Top UK motoring magazine, Auto Express, reports that although the Fiat 500 has only been officially on sale in Britain for a fortnight, it’s already selling like hot cakes. And it’s not only the Italian maker that’s cashing in on the supermini’s popularity – some shrewd buyers are putting their orders up for auction!

A survey of Fiat dealers has revealed that the entire UK allocation of 4,500 cars has already been snapped up. There’s now a waiting list of up to 12 weeks for customers placing orders, according to Steve Burrows, owner of a Fiat dealership in Bogner, West Sussex. He added: “It could be as long as four to six months. The only way to get one earlier is to be flexible on the spec, and hope someone cancels their order.”

Alternatively, potential buyers can visit eBay. A number of right-hand-drive examples have found their way on to the popular website and are being sold at a profit. This is almost unheard of for a mass-produced hatch – but great news for its residual values in the used market.

Some Fiat dealers are now even resorting to placing classified ads on eBay, offering the car at list price.

With its mix of economy, vintage styling and a range-topping price tag that’s still £900 less than its main Anglo-German competitor, the 500 has clearly set its sights on stealing sales from its rival retro hatch.

What’s more, it seems to be working, according to one Fiat dealer. Andrew Singleton of Moss Rose Motors in Macclesfield, Cheshire, said: “It’s absolutely crazy. I have never seen so many parked outside our showroom while the owners check out our new 500!”

The phenomenal success of the 500 comes at a time when the the Fiat Group has recorded its largest ever trading profit – 3.2 billion euros based on a turnover of 59 billion euros – in its 2007 Annual Results. These figures are up 12.9 per cent on 2006 with a 66 per cent increase in trading profit, and the Automobiles sector almost doubled its profit over 2006, to 1.1 billion euros.

The Fiat Group also announced that in 2007 it addressed its net industrial debt, closing the year with 0.4 billion euros net cash.

With sales of 2.234 million vehicles, Fiat achieved its highest volume in seven years, generating revenues of 26.8 billion euros, up 13.1 per cent.

Fiat Group Automobiles – Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia – almost tripled its trading profit to 803 million euros compared to 2006, lifting the return on sales from 1.2 per cent to 3.0 per cent.

Maserati and Ferrari contributed another 290 million euros in trading profit.

Fiat light commercial vehicles lifted its sales by 19.9 per cent around the world, thanks in part to the new Fiat Ducato and Scudo.

Driven by the success of existing ranges, together with new models to be launched in 2008, the Fiat Group plans to lift vehicle sales by another 200,000 in 2008.