The Fiat 500 is due to begin sales here in the U.S. by the end of the year, and Chrysler is now beginning to choose the dealers that will get the car--and represent Fiat in the U.S. The choices made will be critical, as Fiat's reputation from its last run in the U.S. isn't exactly stellar.
The first phase of dealers appointed are already chosen and ready for the first orders of the 500. More dealers are currently being "worked with" to bring the car to more markets by the end of the year. In total, Chrysler hopes to have 119 markets covered, primarily in "areas chosen for their high concentration of small-car registrations." Translation: primarily in larger cities along both coasts.
Selling the 500 should go a long way toward repairing the lasting memories of Fiat's previous reputation, however, as by nearly all accounts abroad, it's an excellent vehicle. Mechanical reliability and dealer service go hand-in-hand, however, and those 500s that do require service or repair will be key in making or breaking the brand's return.
“We are looking for a customer experience that is as unique and personalized as the Fiat 500 itself,” said Laura Soave, Head of Fiat Brand North America. “Some of the proposals are extremely creative and in many cases not only met but exceeded our expectations. We are looking forward to working with our dealer team for the successful launch of the Fiat Brand in the United States and offering our customers the personal experience that they deserve in our Fiat Studios.”
The dealers chosen so far are from within the existing Chrysler Group dealer network, though the company says outside dealers have also shown interest in selling Fiat-brand vehicles.
The first of the vehicles to be sold through the newly-selected Fiat dealerships will be the Fiat 500 Sport, a version specially configured for the U.S. market.