Many in the U.S. have been hoping to receive the wildly popular Fiat 500 minicar for the past couple of years but a lack of interest in small cars has largely held it back. Now, with Fiat's alliance with Chrysler in place the Italian auto giant has a gateway to the lucrative U.S. market and the first model to arrive under the new alliance will be the 500, though it’s launch is still 18 months away.

The 500 will be sold in Chrysler dealerships and it will be the only Fiat-badged model in the U.S. market. It will come in four different versions, all of which will be manufactured at a Chrysler plant either in the U.S. or in Toluca, Mexico in early 2011. The four models available will include the regular hatchback, the new 500C convertible, a ‘Giardinetta' wagon, and a high-performance model – possibly the Abarth version currently on sale in Europe. There is also a strong chance that a fifth, AWD SUV version will be launched further down the track.

The information was revealed to Automotive News by the 500’s designer Roberto Giolito at the launch of the new 500C convertible.

The fact that the Fiat 500 will be sold in Chrysler dealerships, however, is not some sort of hint that Fiat is planning on bringing a raft of Fiat vehicles to the U.S. and rebadging them as Chryslers. While Chrysler is expected to take platforms engineered by Fiat to create its own vehicles, Giolito insists that these will not be simple rebranding jobs, but rather they will be "specific to Chrysler".

While the platforms and certain powertrains are expected to be shared by around six or seven Fiat-based Chrysler models, Giolito was quick to assure that "the vehicles will be U.S. vehicles, designed for U.S. customers by a U.S. company".

With the news of Fiat bringing the 500 to U.S. shores, other automakers may feel compelled to compete with the little hatch. This could mean that we'll be seeing Ford's Ka coming to the States around the same time as the two cars share the same platform and production facility.