With Italian automaker set to make its return to the United States before the end of the year, dealers still have many questions about how the whole process is going to work.
Today, 400 prospective Fiat dealers attended “The Fiat Experience” in downtown Detroit. The summit, an information session, let dealers in on what to expect once signing on to sell Fiat products. The conference informed dealers on the sizable investment they’d be making, including staffing, training, marketing, inventory, service, parts, and — most importantly — the facilities. With the Fiat 500 expected to hit showrooms by December, dealers and Fiat alike have their work cut out for them.
One major concern of the dealers in attendance is the required standalone showroom Chrysler is requiring for Fiat sales. While Chrysler looks to separate Fiat from other Chrysler products, the idea of a separate facility isn’t sitting well with many dealers. While the initial investment will be fairly sizable, many dealers admit that another building just isn’t feasible, especially where land costs are at a premium.
Alan Helfman, a Chrysler dealer in Houston, Texas, expects to spend up to $500,000 to readying his facilities for Fiat vehicles. “You have to look at the long-term strategy to turn it into profit,” he told The Detroit News. “If you are not a bit liquid, you shouldn’t be in the game. This is a very liquid business.”
Chrysler’s deadline for applications is September 22, at which time it will whittle the number of submissions down to just 200 dealers in select target markets. Dealers will be notified in the fourth quarter, with the first Fiat 500 deliveries scheduled to take place in December. The selected dealers will likely sell Alfa Romeo models, come 2012, when the Italian luxury brand is speculated to make its return to the U.S. on a wide scale.