Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of both Chrysler and Fiat, has said the Fiat 500 will go on sale late this year in the U.S. as the Turin, Italy-based automaker reintroduces its namesake brand to the world’s second-largest auto market. Fiat, which owns 20 percent of Chrysler, took control of the U.S. automaker as part of its bankruptcy restructuring in 2009.
The company said it will pick new Fiat franchises based on several criteria, including plans to create a standalone facility. Dealers have been told to build a business case for a Fiat franchise based on gross margins of as much as $1,500 for each Fiat 500 sold, people familiar with the planning have said.
Some Chrysler dealers will have open space for a Fiat franchise after the closing of General Motors Co.’s Saturn and other brands, said Alan Helfman, vice president of River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Houston. Helfman said in a telephone interview that he’s planning to submit a franchise application.
“I can have preparations in place, but I think it’s going to take a little time” for a showroom, he said. “Anytime I’ve built anything, if I thought I could do it in three months, it took six.”
Marchionne is scheduled to attend his first large-scale meeting with Chrysler dealers today in Orlando, Florida. The meeting, the first since 2007, comes as Marchionne is introducing 16 new or refreshed vehicles before the end of the year.
The heads of the automaker’s vehicle brands — Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat — are also expected to attend the meeting, Kisiel said. For most dealers, it will be their first chance to see the 2011 model year lineup, much of which will reach showrooms later this year, he said.