Chrysler Corp. recently forced the closure of about 800 dealerships, and has spent the past year engaged in a fierce battle to keep them closed. Adding new dealers at this point seems, on the surface at least, unthinkable.
But that’s exactly what Chrysler intends to do by adding a whole new dealer network to sell Fiats. At first Chrysler had said it would draw exclusively on its existing dealers to sell the Fiat 500, but now, according to the Detroit News,
The Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker said existing Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealers will get a chance to apply to sell the Italian Fiats, but they must be able to operate separate facilities with different sales and service teams in order to win a franchise.
That statement alone suggests we’re going to see a lot more Fiats in the U.S. than just the 500, which should reach our shores by the end of this year. If that’s true, then adding dealers just might make sense.
The new Fiat dealers will put up shop in 125 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and should be in place by September, about three months before the 500 debuts here.
Rather than being a poorly thought-out dealer expansion on Chrysler’s part, what we may be seeing here are signs of a coming, and welcome, Italian invasion.
Rumors of Fiat-owned Alfa Romeo returning to the U.S. have surfaced again this year, so it stands to reason that Alfas could be sold in the same new facilities as Fiats. That’s pure speculation of course, but it would be a smart move on Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s part. It sure looks like he’s laying the groundwork, at least.
As we reported here in April, six new Alfa Romeo models could make their way to America, which combined with an assortment of Fiats could make for some interesting, and seriously fun, test drives.
Should Chrysler Corp. expand its dealer base so shortly after its bankruptcy-era dealer cull? I think it’s the right move only if we see a full line of Fiats and Alfa Romeos in the new stores.