Fiat's return to the United States by way of Chrysler recently gained some new details. At a dealer briefing held in Detroit, Fiat announced it expected to award 165 franchises, provided they build standalone facilities of 2,500 to 3,000 square feet (much like Mini, a major rival of Fiat's subcompact 500).

With an atmosphere described by the New York Times as "party-like," the event was attended by around 400 Chrysler dealers, selected specifically due to their location. Some are in areas with strong small car sales and others where the company expects to see increases in the next five years.

"It's an exciting new thing," said Joshua Towbin, of Towbin Dodge in Las Vegas and star of the reality TV show King of Cars. "We've seen the buzz… I'm excited about the new Fiat, bringing it to America, and being a retailer." Towbin also likes that this small car is very roomy. "I like the size of the car on the inside. I'm a big guy and I fit great in the car," he said.

Such support is crucial, as Fiat has optimistic sales targets of 78,000 a year by 2013. The three-door will come first, followed closely by a convertible. A performance variation, an electric version and a five-door are all in the works. There has been no mention yet of any other Fiat models besides the 500 making their way Stateside, although there's also the prospect of seven Alfa Romeo models by 2014.

The 500 goes on sale later this year. Chrysler hopes this charming, retro-styled hatchback will help reverse the company's recent ill fortunes.

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Doug DeMuro is a Denver native who now resides in Atlanta. He was featured in Automobile Magazine for his "car spotting" hobby – hunting and photographing exotic cars in the wild. DeMuro is an Emory University alumni with wide-ranging industry experience including Porsche Cars North America, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and a Ferrari dealership.

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