We've seen U.S.-spec Fiat 500s running around testing, heard Fiat's desire to sell the car here, but until the brand actually had a network through which to sell the cars, there was a chance Fiat wouldn't quite make it to the States. That changes today, however, as Chrysler announced it will begin awarding Fiat franchises.
"We have carefully considered each of these dealer proposals looking for the best locations and the most creative plans," Peter Grady, VP of Chrysler's network development and fleet operations, said. "We are thrilled with their level of interest in securing the Fiat franchise and in the innovative proposals they have submitted. We're excited to be at the point where we now can start appointing our Fiat dealer network."
Chrysler doesn't say just how many franchises it will appoint, but invited 600 existing Chrysler dealerships to apply for a Fiat franchise in early August. The dealerships selected to apply were chosen based on the number of small car registrations in the area. In total, Chrysler says it wants dealerships in 119 markets in 36 states and Puerto Rico.
For now the selected dealerships will only be able to offer the base Fiat 500, but each will be ready to take orders for the small car as soon as they receive their franchise notification. By 2013, the dealerships will have at least three other versions of the 500 to sell including a convertible, high-strung Abarth variant, and high-roof, four-door hatchback. The chosen Fiat dealerships may also get the chance to sell the Alfa Romeo brand, which is scheduled (again) to return to the U.S. in 2012.
Although the U.S.-spec Fiat 500 is due out early next year, we have yet to drive the car. We're scheduled to drive it soon and are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see the changes made for our market. We had one in the UK a short while back however, and came away rather impressed.