By on February 25, 2011

Bloomberg [via Automotive News [sub]] reports that all 130 planned Fiat USA showrooms will not be opened until September. Initial rollout plans had called for “around 165” dealers, but that number has been dialed back, possibly due to overlap. It’s not clear if the delay will affect Chrysler’s goal of selling 50k Cinquecentos this year, but it probably will considering

About a dozen Fiat franchises have started up and a total of 20 may be open by the end of February, said Laura Soave, head of the Fiat brand for Chrysler.

About 30 to 40 will be open by the middle of March, she said. Chrysler said in September that it wanted Fiat showrooms running by the end of February, adding that it would allow some dealers to open later.

“It’s a tiny bit behind,” Soave said today.

Pre-ordered special editions of the 500 will be delivered to consumers starting in the second week of March, and dealers will begin receiving inventory just weeks thereafter. That means the Fiat dealer net will have to average around 5,555 sales per month to hit the corporate target, and if 100 or so dealers won’t be open until after March, the per-dealer sales target will be tough to hit. But then, with a car like the 500, the question isn’t really how well it sells initially, but whether it has staying power. But that’s another challenge for another year.
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7 Comments on “Fiat Launch “A Tiny Bit Behind”...”

  • avatar

    I suppose it’s time to raise this discussion point:  Has anyone seen a Cinquecento on the <US> streets yet?

    I saw a black one in midtown Atlanta a few days ago.  I had assumed it was a beta version (I’ve previously seen a few Volts WAY before they were at any dealers).  I couldn’t find a metro-ATL Fiat dealer through a quick google search, however.

    Anyone else?

  • avatar

    A yellow 500 was making its way west out of the STL metro area on I-70 about this time last week or the week before. It definitely was drawing some attention, cars slowing, finger pointing, gawking, etc. Something like spotting a Smart car in traffic for the first time. This one definitely stood out, especially in yellow against the February gray around here.

    Our “studios” haven’t opened here as of yet, there’ll be a couple eventually, so apparently this one was “just passing through” or the possession of a true “early adopter”.

    We drove to the Chicago Auto Show earlier in February and enjoyed the Fiat display there. They had an original 500, inside a roped area, truly tiny, and not a bad idea since they weren’t sold here in quantity and the new 500 is clearly retro, but to what, exactly? There you go.

    Was googling last week and ran across Fiat of Austin, who seem to be up and going, with some videos that give an idea of how they’re intending to market these.

  • avatar

    I guess this helps explain why, just a couple of weeks before their claimed launch, they still don’t have a working dealer locator on their US website.
    There were a couple of dealers announced for my area, but neither is open and I no idea how to find out about even ordering a car.  Oh well, I guess I’ll let others pay the sure-to-be exorbinant “first on the block” surcharges and I’ll just wait a while.

  • avatar

    It will be interesting to see how many Fiat dealers can survive until more models are available. I’m sure most dealers intend to profit substantially from used car sales. My local Fiat dealer is a former Saturn dealership so they already had a facility without a franchise and I guess any new car franchise is better than none. Having just the 500 to sell is about as close as you can get to not having a franchise.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure what the rollout schedule is for other FIAT models, but you’re right, it will be a lot of dealer overhead riding on the back of one model.
      At least the original Saturn folks had a 4dr, coupe, and wagon.
      My guess is these are mostly adjacent to existing Chrysler stores, so maybe they’ll have a deal like “ring bell and we’ll send over a sales consultant”

  • avatar

    Couldn’t they find a NYC site that had the Chrysler Building prominently in the background? It’s little things like that omission that make me wonder if this new merger of equals is going to work out.

  • avatar

    I’ve always felt the Fiat pronouncements didn’t meet the reality on the ground, however, the speed and distance traveled by the Chrysler group with its new overlords, whether production, product change or dealer relations, has been dramatic…its closest analog, IMO, is the job Chrysler did with AMC upon acquisition.
    Fiat’s giving it an honest try….but the 500 roll-out issues will continue for months, if not years.

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