Fiat Making Comeback to the U.S.

EL PASO, Texas -- The Italian automaker Fiat, that hasn’t been selling in the United States for nearly 30 years, is making a return.

“Having Italian cars -- not as Ferraris and Lamborghinis -- but as cars that mere mortals can buy, that’s real important for this market,” says Aaron Robinson, a technical editor for Car and Driver magazine.

In total, 130 Chrysler dealerships across the country are slated to be selling the model 500, which will be produced in a factory in Mexico; Mack Massey Chrysler in El Paso is one of those selected dealerships.

With a new fleet coming to town, it means more jobs. Stacey Massey, whose heading up Fiat sales at her family’s dealership, says they plan on hiring up to 10 new employees, and with growth in sales, they may be hiring more. To get the franchise, Massey says they had to go through a lengthy application to convince Fiat that El Paso was a well-suited place to sell the car.

“Fiat obviously did their homework before they started and they wanted to look at the percentage between car versus SUV drivers, and they just knew El Paso made sense for it,” says Massey.

She says that El Pasoans are careful about the environment and have a reputation of following trends; so she thinks they will be successful at selling a new stylish car in the area.

The come back of Fiat thrills car enthusiast Ron Collins of El Paso. He says he plans on buying the 500 next year--this will be his fifth Fiat.

“I’m excited Fiat has come back to the U.S. after a 20 year absence,” said Collins. “I never thought they would come back again, and the Fiat has kind of a style that’s unique to the Italians.”

Collins has owned many cars, but says the Fiat stands out to him.

“It has a certain flair to it,” he says. Collins bought his first Fiat in the 1970s.

“I just like the foreign flavor—something different,” he says.

Robinson told that since it’s been decades since Fiat sold cars in the U.S., it’s like they are introducing a make no one has ever heard of. Plus, the previous Fiat’s didn’t have the best record for reliability.

“The last cars they sold in America were terrible, so really they don’t want anybody to remember what the last cars were like. They want to come as an all-new company,” he says.

Reliability ratings for the 2012 Fiat 500 have not been released, but with the style and size of the car, Massey says the new model is what consumer’s today are looking for. With gas prices on the rise, she says the 38 miles-per-gallon on the highway and the coupe’s stylish flair will be a real draw for consumers looking for a commuter car.

With a USB port in the glove compartment, drivers can track the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) they are producing into the atmosphere.

“I think it’s going to be a big hit because people, they have a big truck that they drive right now and they think: ‘That would a really go car for me to go back and forth to work in.’”

Mack Massey Fiat is introducing the 500 with ads on Facebook and through sponsorship of El Paso’s marathon, using the model 500 as the pace car. Over the next few weeks, they will be constructing a sales studio and showroom.