Fiat, the new Italian owner of Chrysler, is trying once again to seduce the American audience with its latest model. This time leggy Romanian model Catrinel Menghia has captivated America’s online audience with a new sexy ad for the Fiat 500 Abarth.

In Fiat’s online ad “Seduction”, a man walks down the street with his cappuccino. Dressed in business attire he seems to be on his way back to the office when he stops and watches an attractive young woman in a black dress in a provocative pose on the street. She bends over to adjust the strap of her high heels. Or is she simply massaging her leg? She notices him staring at her. Embarrassed, he suddenly tries to avoid her by looking down. But she does not let go. She confronts him in a rather angry voice. It is all in Italian. After a few words she slaps him. But then her tone changes as she pins him against the lamp post.

She touches his face and whispers into his ear. Her voice is soft as she looks into his eyes. He nods as he watches her in awe. We don’t hear a single word from him. Then her attention turns to the cappuccino which he holds in his left hand. She swirls her finger in the foam. As she raises her finger some of the foam lands on her cleavage. Both look at it briefly. Then she raises her finger and puts some of the foam left on her finger on his lips. She grabs him by his necktie and pulls him closer. Much closer. He closes his eyes as he leans towards her, anticipating the kiss. Then there is the anticlimactic cut. We see him in the same position, but now leaning towards a black car. He opens his eyes. The attractive girl in the black dress has been replaced by a black Fiat 500 model. He stares at the car. We hear her voice. The seductive voiceover is in English.

“The Fiat 500 Abarth. You’ll never forget the first time you see one.”

Then we see the Fiat brand identity flip and turn into the Abarth logo while we hear the engine. Finally, there is the car in action. The engine roars as the car races through the urban streets for the final ten seconds.

For us less versed in Italian, here’s the translation of the enire seduction.

“What are you looking at? Huh!?
What are you looking at?!”
(She slaps him)
“Are you undressing me with your eyes?
Poor guy… you cannot help it?
Is your heart beating? Is your head spinning?
Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?”

While this 60-second ad undoubtedly has had the biggest impact of all of the Fiat ads so far, is this online ad really going to help Fiat with sales? I doubt it. Sure, the ad has been positively received based on number of online views and positive sentiments. Shouldn’t the buzz that the ad created ultimately help the brand sell cars? Before we go further, let’s look at the other ads that have appeared since the Fiat’s introduction a year ago.

“Get Ready” by Fiat

“Drive In” TV spot

Jennifer Lopez Fiat 500 “Papi” trailer

First Fiat 500 Commercial Featuring Jennifer Lopez “My World”

After watching these ads, we could easily come to the conclusion that Fiat has a brand identity problem. How are these ads positioning the brand? What are the values that we should associate with the brand? Who is the target audience? There are no clear answers. Instead of positioning the brand clearly to its new audience (let’s not forget that Fiat is returning to the U.S. after 27 years!), all of these ads actually add to the confusion as they pull in different directions.

Julie Roehm, former director of marketing communications at DaimlerChrysler, was one of the fist to ask “What were they thinking?” when Fiat selected Jennifer Lopez for their brand. Former auto marketing executive Peter DeLorenzo called the “Papi” ad “quite possibly the worst automotive spot of the last decade.” While the “Drive In” TV spot played with nostalgia, Jennifer Lopez completely out-shadowed the brand in her first Fiat commercial. The ad disappeared quickly after it was highly criticized. As it turns out, it was not really an ad but actually a trailer for Jennifer Lopez’s upcoming “Papi” single. Then why did Fiat air the spot? This clearly could not have helped Fiat.

Fianlly, when Fiat rolled out the real Jennifer Lopez ad “My World”, unfortunately, it didn’t really help the brand’s identity either. Unlike Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad “Born of Fire” featuring Eminem, Ms. Lopez driving through the Bronx in a chic Fiat 500 did not feel authentic. “She’s just Jenny from the block? Come on, no one believes that?” (AdWeek). Even worse, the ad seemed very generic. Maybe Fiat tried to go the safe route after the fiasco of the first Jennifer Lopez ad/music trailer. But “safe” is usually not a good route to take in advertising.

Last week at the 2011 LA Auto Show, Head of Fiat Brand Worldwide and CMO Chrysler & Fiat Groups Olivier Francois, presented two new ads for two new 500 models, “Seduction” for the Fiat 500 Abarth and “Elegance” for the Gucci edition – the third ad to feature Jennifer Lopez for the Fiat brand.

Fiat 500 Gucci “Elegance”

But it is clearly the online ad “Seduction” that has finally stolen the hearts of the American audience (predominantly young male). It remains doubtful, however, that it can help Fiat turn around it’s fortunes. Through October, 15,826 Fiat 500s were sold in the U.S. This is a far cry from the 50,000 goal for 2011 in the U.S. and Canada.

If indeed, America has fallen in love with the ad, I remain skeptical that the audience has actually fallen in love with the Fiat brand itself. And if people only love the sexy ad, I doubt that this will help Fiat achieve any of its marketing goals. Especially when you consider that the young male audience cannot be the primary target audience of the Fiat brand.

The Fiat 500 continues to search for its brand identity.