The sad story of “Fix It Again, Tony”

Fiat entered the American market in 1908. At the time, it wasn’t yet known as “Fix it again, Tony!”; the nickname was actually crafted some 60 years later in the 1970s and 1980s when some Fiat owners reportedly encountered problems with their cars. From then on Fiat got a reputation for making unreliable and poor quality cars. The nickname “Fix it again, Tony!” was coined as an acronym for Fiat and intended as a joke. However it stuck, to the point that some people actually wondered whether it was Fiat’s real name. Fiat’s nickname, though initially a joke, really damaged the brand image by maintaining the cars’ bad reputation to the point that it hindered Fiat development in the US and impacted the sales (though other factors can also be held responsible for Fiat failure in the American market). Eventually, Fiat left the American market without having managed to fix its damaged reputation.

As Fiat announced its grand return to the United States in 2009, Fiat’s old nickname also made a comeback. While the automaker may have hoped that 27 years would be enough for people to forget it, most news articles couldn’t help mentioning the good old sobriquet: welcome back “Fix it again, Tony!”

Automakers brand names have long been the objects of puns and backronyms: AUDI- Another Useless Deutsche Invention, BMW-Broke My Wallet, Ford-Fix Or Repair Daily, Lotus-Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious, etc. However “Fix it again, Tony!”, is the only one that really gained popularity to the point that it is extensively used and recognized as an alternative name for Fiat. In fact, this nickname was so widely popularized in the US that although it is mainly derogatory, nowadays it is also tinged with a touch of nostalgia and affection (when people remember the “Fix it again, Tony!” car they owned back in the days…).

Though it is understandable that Fiat is doing its best to get rid of the name and wouldn’t want to use “Fix it again, Tony!” as a communication tool, some brands promote their nickname as part of their identity and marketing strategy. Chevrolet is one of the latter.


Chevrolet versus Chevy

Chevrolet, the much loved American brand has long been affectionately nicknamed Chevy. In fact, people barely ever use the name “Chevrolet”, for Chevy is shorter, easier to pronounce, cuter, etc. For a long time, Chevrolet didn’t mind the nickname, they even used it in their commercials promoting “Chevy Runs Deep” or on their website(they have a “Chevy Culture” page).

However, in 2010, Chevrolet tried to get rid of its beloved nickname: in a note addressed to all employees, It was asked that whether they be talking with colleagues or family, employees didn’t refer to Chevrolet as Chevy anymore, arguing that it made the brand look “cheap”. Around the same time, they also changed their slogan from “Chevy runs deep” to “Find new roads” and removed most mentions of “Chevy” from their website. Though it was intended as part of a global strategy – Chevrolet was expending abroad and they needed a slogan that could be used as a global advertising catch-phrase, whereas the term Chevy is mostly only used in the States – this decision caused uproar amongst Chevy lovers and the general American population. Indeed, throughout the years, Chevy had become some kind of a reference in the popular culture, with the name being used in songs or movies. The generalized protests eventually led Chevrolet to backpedal. Even though this little crisis is history now, it did cause Chevrolet to face a few months of negative reactions, criticisms and overall bad publicity. Nowadays, Chevrolet is back to promoting Chevy, and people are still as much attached to the nickname.

All in all, it appears that whether they be positive or negative, “pet” names can be pretty powerful where brands are concerned. Apparently few brands actually have a nickname. Some are afraid of the damages a negative nickname can stir up, most just don’t really see what’s the point in having a nickname. Those who do however, have learned to cherish those nicknames because they speak of a true bond between a brand and its consumers – who won’t respond lightly to any threat to this name, as Chevy discovered at its expense.  Indeed, no matter how hard they may have tried, it is close to impossible for a brand to craft and establish its own nickname. They are created as an expression of the affection the consumers hold toward your brand. Therefore, should your brand ever get a nickname, don’t fight it. Cherish it and thank your customers for this wonderful gift. It’s the best proof of love you will ever get.