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An Italian American Woman Takes the Helm at North America's Fiat Brand

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author photo by Autotrader January 2011

Laura Soave, the “talking head” for Fiat Brand of North America is ready to reach a new audience. A child of Italian immigrants who spent her childhood summers near Rome, the fluent Italian also has cousins and uncles who worked at Fiat’s factory in Piedimonte San Germano, Italy.

It appears that Soave’s history and personality won over Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. Over a year ago, Soave interviewed with Marchionne in Detroit. The 30-minute meeting morphed into three hours plus. She was hired in March 2010 to head Fiat’s return to North America.

As Detroit Free Press reported, Soave said, “We disagreed on a few things. Probably not anything I want to elaborate on, but he appreciated the passion and experience I had in blending European culture with American consumers.”

The 38-year-old has paid her dues in the automotive business. In 1997 she worked at Ford answering “all those 1-800-I-hate-my-car-and-my-dealer calls.” From there she moved into more advanced marketing, including the launch of the 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid.

When Volkswagen moved from Auburn Hills to Herndon, Virginia, Soave went to work for them. One of her projects was promoting Barbie’s 50th birthday life-size Malibu Barbie Beetle hot pink convertible.

Now she’s gone from kitsch to cool. Soave’s setting her sights on creating a small dealer network and positioning the Fiat 500 “Cinquecento” minicar as a trendy brand for the smartphone generation.

Prophetically, soon after taking the Fiat job, her parents found a photo, taken during a trip to Italy, of 3-year-old Laura perched atop a Cinquecento.

“My dad brought it to me and said, ‘Look at this, it’s destiny,’ “ she said.

In December Soave delivered a half-dozen Cinquecentos to the world-renowned Art Basel show in Miami Beach. A group of Italian artists and University of Miami students decorated the diminutive 500 as their “inspiration and canvas”. Soave feels that this type of advertising initiative will capture younger consumers.

“It’s important for people to touch and feel,” she said. “TV commercials are great for entertainment purposes, but it doesn’t really get you to experience the brand.”

“American consumers want new stuff, and you need to constantly evolve with them”.

In the next year, the 500 will introduce a convertible, an Abarth sport performance version and a four-door (that is goes by the code name L0). An all-electric 500 will debut towards the end of 2012.

The first Fiat 500s – Cinquecentos– will start wheeling into 130 Chrysler dealerships early this year. The Fiat Cinquecento will start at $15,500.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
An Italian American Woman Takes the Helm at North America's Fiat Brand - Autotrader