Chrysler Group has chosen to narrow down the focus for US sales of Fiat vehicles to 119 markets that have taken a liking to small cars. The owners of approximately 600 dealerships from those markets were invited to apply for a planned 200 franchises.
The Fiat plan will be discussed with these dealers at an Aug. 30 meeting in Detroit. Dealers are expected to present their proposals by Sept. 22 while the Fiat franchisees will be chosen in early October.
The Fiat 500 minicar, which will start production in Toluca, Mexico, in the fourth quarter, is the first Fiat to go on sale. There are three other 500-based models that are slated to start selling through 2013.
Peter Grady, Chrysler's vice president of network development and fleet, said that Fiat's requirements are simple: separate sales and display at launch, transitioning to a full dealership facility as the volume grows.
Chrysler said that what the 119 markets in 36 states and Puerto Rico have in common are their "strong small-car registrations and growth potential in the small-car segment over the next five years."
But if no Chrysler dealers in a given market are able to provide a satisfactory proposal then non-Chrysler dealers might get to acquire Fiat franchises, according to Chrysler Group spokesman Ralph Kisiel. Chrysler said that dealers will be assessed using certain criteria, including sales performance, plans for a separate Fiat facility and proper capitalization.