Fiat 500 AbarthEnlarge Photo
Back in August, some Chrysler dealers were worried about CEO Sergio Marchionne's plans to launch Fiat in the U.S. They were concerned about the expense (Marchionne wants to sell the Fiat in new, Fiat-branded showrooms), the logic of adding another brand to the Chrysler family, and the demand for the pint-sized 500 model at a time when the economy's still shaky and gas prices are stable.
A week later, Marchionne gathered 400 Chrysler dealers in a room to lay out his vision. The media wasn't privy to that meeting, but clearly, Serge did a great job of amping up the crowd (or making offers that no one could refuse), because Chrysler says the number of dealers applying for Fiat franchises has been overwhelming.
We already knew about Marchionne's plan to launch Fiat in 165 locations and 119 markets across the U.S. What we didn't know is how many existing Chrysler dealers would apply for the rights to sell Fiat vehicles. Chrysler won't reveal how many applications were submitted in advance of Wednesday's deadline, but a company spokesperson said, "The response from our dealers has exceeded our expectations."
This seems like good news for Chrysler and Fiat (not to mention minicar fans). We'll know more about Marchionne's national strategy for the brand when Chrysler announces the final list of Fiat dealers next month.