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Chrysler picks small-car markets for Fiat

Automotive News reports on Fiat's marketing plans for the U.S.

DETROIT--Chrysler Group has tightened the focus for U.S. sales of Fiat vehicles, choosing 119 markets friendly to small cars.

Chrysler has invited owners of about 600 dealerships in those markets to apply for a planned 200 franchises. Those dealers are invited to an Aug. 30 meeting in Detroit to discuss the Fiat plan.

The company will ask interested dealers to present proposals by Sept. 22. It will choose the Fiat franchisees in early October.

The first Fiat to go on sale will be the Fiat 500 minicar, scheduled to start production in Toluca, Mexico, in the fourth quarter. Three other 500-based models are scheduled to go on sale through 2013.

"The requirements for Fiat are straightforward: separate sales and display at launch, transitioning to a full dealership facility as the volume grows," said Peter Grady, Chrysler's vice president of network development and fleet.

The company said the 119 markets in 36 states and Puerto Rico have "strong small-car registrations and growth potential in the small-car segment over the next five years."

Chrysler Group spokesman Ralph Kisiel said some non-Chrysler dealers might get an opportunity for Fiat franchises if no Chrysler dealers come up with satisfactory proposals in a given market.

Chrysler said it will evaluate dealers on a number of criteria, including sales performance, plans for a separate Fiat facility and proper capitalization. Fiat withdrew from the U.S. market in 1984.

(Source: Automotive News)