Chrysler introduces dealers to Fiat

By Associated Press
Posted Aug. 30, 2010 at 12:47 p.m.

Chrysler on Monday told 400 dealers about its plans to bring the Fiat brand back to the U.S. after a 30-year absence, starting with the Fiat 500 minicar later this year.

Fiat-run Chrysler Group LLC hopes the tiny Italian car can boost its lackluster sales when it comes to the U.S. in December. Chrysler wants the bulb-shaped 500 to become a strong contender in the small-car market, where it has struggled for years.
The car will be sold by about 165 Chrysler Group dealers, mainly in large metro areas. Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealers who gathered in Detroit Monday are being asked to build separate showrooms and have separate sales and service staffs for the cars.

Dealers have until Sept. 22 to apply for Fiat franchises. Chrysler said it will select its dealers in the fourth quarter.

Chrysler wants to create a distinctive European aura for the 500. It will come in standard, convertible, high-performance and electric versions. Dealers also saw some future Fiat models, but Chrysler wouldn’t comment on what they saw.

“Our dealers will be able to interact with a group of individuals that are not part of their current customer base,” said Laura Soave, a former Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG executive who now heads the Fiat brand in North America. “These are individuals interested in Italian automotive design coupled with fuel efficient technology.”

Fiat last sold cars in the U.S. in 1983, pulling out of the country after a string of quality problems that gave it the nickname “Fix it Again, Tony.” On one model, warranty repair costs wiped out profits in the U.S.

Until recently, Fiat had a similar reputation in Europe, but industry analysts say the company’s new models are vastly improved.

The Fiat 500 will be built in Toluca, Mexico.

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One comment:

  1. jack(me) Aug. 31, 2010 at 8:46 a.m.

    I’m sure that with the shakeout of brands last year, the death of brands that required separate showrooms, such as Saturn and Hummer, and the shakeout of dealers resulting in the arbitration laws, dealers are really lining up to build a separate Fiat dealership for one puny car–especially since, compared to even Ford and GM, the U.S. subsidiary of Fiat doesn’t have any new domestic product. If some can get financing to do that, good luck, you’ll need it.