US-based Fiat dealers are in better place after botched Fiat 500 launch

Article by Christian Andrei, on February 22, 2012

Fiat dealers in the U.S. are seeing the initial results of the efforts made by Chrysler Group to fix its badly executed Fiat 500 launch. With 0% financing for customers, more advertising, new brand leadership and new products, Fiat dealers are now in a better position than they were half a year ago. Moreover, Fiat also has discontinued airing TV advertisements featuring entertainer Jennifer Lopez. 

In November, Tim Kuniskis was appointed head of the Fiat brand in North America, replacing Laura Soave, who left the automaker after 20 months. Kuniskis had been helping Soave during her last months in the position while also serving as marketing boss for the Chrysler brand.

Since his promotion and with a mandate from Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to fix what went wrong, Kuniskis checked each of the brand's almost 140 dealers in the U.S. in a two-week period. He has modified the marketing strategy of the 500, and increased local and national advertising for the vehicle. General Manager Lisa Crawford of Fiat of Austin in Texas related that Kuniskis "went eyeball to eyeball with every one of us, and that wasn't always easy." She added that Kuniskis is the "right guy at the right time."

Many were surprised when Chrysler Group run the popular "Seduction" video, its 30-second online video clip featuring the Fiat 500 Abarth, during the Super Bowl as a commercial. The Abarth has a 160-hp 1.4-liter engine with Fiat's MultiAir variable valve system and a five-speed manual transmission.

It will be available for sale in spring. Marchionne disclosed that it will be followed by an electric variant of the subcompact this year. He added that the four-door 500L and an Alfa Romeo automobile (which wasn’t identified yet) will follow in 2013.

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