Fiat global brand head Olivier Francois calls Tony "the elephant in the room."
And since the brand's return to the U.S., Fiat has tried to run away from him, even though Tony does not exist.
But no more.
A new commercial for the Fiat 500X finally takes on Tony, the mythical mechanic in the derogatory English-language acronym "Fix It Again, Tony." Millennials might not remember it, but the phrase, a commentary on quality issues, has plagued the brand for decades.
In the commercial, a man is standing outside Tony's repair shop speaking to the Italian owner and trying to get a broken mirror on his Honda Civic fixed. Tony asks his two Italian mechanics to "fix it," pointing to the Civic's busted mirror. But instead, they begin a rant about the Civic's lack of style, leather seats and other supposed deficiencies, calling it "a caveman in a cavecar," among other insults.
"We fix," they say in broken English, sending the bewildered owner into the waiting room for an espresso. When he emerges, his blue Civic has been replaced with a new Fiat 500X subcompact crossover.
"We fixed it," the mechanics say proudly.
Fiat repeatedly has been the lowest ranking mass-market brand on quality surveys by Consumer Reports and J.D. Power and Associates.
But in his presentation introducing the 500X to North America at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week, Mr. Francois said it was time to retire the perception that Fiat has poor quality.
The commercial, he said, "features a skeleton in the closet, the elephant in the room. His name was Tony, and he had to go," Mr. Francois said.
"To go global, our No. 1 priority is world-class quality," the Frenchman said, before ticking off the hours spent on the design, engineering and testing of the 500X.
"This is why we redesigned the Melfi [Italy] plant," Mr. Francois said. Both the 500X and its platform mate, the Jeep Renegade, are built in Melfi and exported to the United States.
The Fiat 500X is expected to arrive in U.S. showrooms during the second quarter of 2015. Its pricing and fuel economy were not announced. The company did not say when or on what networks the ad would be running.
--Larry P Vellequette is a reporter for Automotive News.