Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne told Automotive News that dealer distribution plans for Alfa Romeo’s upcoming U.S. revival are still unresolved. With Maserati and Fiat still in contention Marchionne noted that “the best performing Fiat dealers will be the ones that will be entitled to have a crack at Alfa Romeo distribution.” This is good news for Fiat dealers, which had appeared to be completely out of the running after a previous emailed-statement to AN from global head of Fiat’s Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands Harald Wester indicated Maserati had won the bid. Fiat operates about 210 Chrysler-affiliated dealerships in the U.S., compared to Maserati’s 68 which are outside of the Chrysler network. Many of these Fiat dealerships invested heavily in building stand-alone showrooms, in part because of the expectation that they could also sell Alfa Romeos. Fiat dealers have high hopes for the Alfa Romeo 4C, which is set to arrive in the second quarter of 2014 after a series of delays. Now that Fiat’s hat is back in the ring, dealers have a major incentive to improve recently sluggish sales. With Fiat 500 sales in the gutter, down 36 percent for October and 14 percent year-to-date, many Fiat dealers are looking to the sporty Alfa Romeo 4C as a way to attract buyers into showrooms. Marchionne addressed the situation last week in comments to Fiat analysts and journalists, pointing to future models like the four-door 500L and 500X crossover as other signs of good things to come for Fiat dealers in the U.S. At the same time he was clear that Fiat was still eligible for Alfa Romeo distribution, and that details would be outlined once a strategic product plan is completed by next spring. With only 1000 units destined for U.S. showrooms, the Alfa Romeo 4C is certainly not meant to be a volume sales vehicle. However, Alfa’s return to the U.S. marketplace has been highly anticipated and could very well bring a much-needed boost to Fiat’s overall image and brand awareness among consumers.
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