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Fiat Expands Dealer Network

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author photo by Autotrader June 2011

Buying a Fiat 500 may soon be a little easier. The company is expanding its dealership network to include showrooms with links to brands other than Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.

The Italian automaker's return to the United States – after 30 years away – has come about by taking over the reins at financially troubled Chrysler. The original plan was to sell the Fiat 500 (and any future models) through Chrysler dealerships, albeit in separate areas known as "Fiat Studios." There are 59 such studios in the country at present, but Fiat wants that figure to rise to 130 by the end of the year.

Unfortunately, some Chrysler dealers have fallen out of the picture (for various reasons like not being able to obtain building permits), so it's time to implement Plan B. "We have extended letters of intent with seven non-Chrysler Group dealers to establish a Fiat Studio," said Ralph Kisiel, the company's spokesman for sales and dealer network media relations.

One example already up and running is Fiat of Lakeside, in Macomb, Michigan. Owned by the Galeana Automotive Group, it opened for business on May 18. The irony is that this was a Saturn showroom for 20 years, but General Motors finally pulled the plug on that brand in 2010, so now Fiat of Lakeside is selling cars from GM's Detroit rival.

At the opening, Carl Galeana declared he was pleased to be "first in town" with a standalone Fiat studio. "We're in the game... it's the right move. I am very excited to be part of the team," he said, describing the studio's decor as "innovative, with a touch of sexy."

"One of the things we are committed to is the network," said the head of Fiat's North American operations, Laura Soave, adding that it was better to get things right rather than rush ahead, so that "the first impression is perfect."

"We continue to look at proposals from additional non-Chrysler Group dealers," said Kisiel. "Keep in mind proposals from our Chrysler Group dealers always come first."

The retro-cute 2012 Fiat 500 subcompact starts at $15,500 for the entry-level Pop trim, going up to $23,500 for the Lounge version of the 500C convertible.

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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.
Fiat Expands Dealer Network - Autotrader