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Gilles: Fiat 500 on sale in U.S. by the end of 2010

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Filed under: Coupe, SUV, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Fiat

Fiat 500 - Click above for high-res image gallery

Ralph Gilles, Dodge CEO and Chrysler Group design head, has just wrapped up an address to the Chicago Economic Club that was peppered with several choice quotes and quips. You can read the Chrysler's PR-filtered version on its Twitter feed, but here are our favorites:
From the true: "Brands and companies don't die. They are victims of homicide."

To the sublime: "Viper important to image of "my brand" [Dodge]"

To the ridiculous: "The further away you are from Detroit the less you know the facts about the auto industry."

To the more ridiculous: "I liken management to X-Men... all have special abilities."

To the funny/creepy: Ad agency interviewed him before creating Super Bowl spot. "I had to smoke a cigarette," afterwards, he joked.

To the important: "Fiat 500 on sale in U.S. at end of the year"

That last bit coincides with earlier reports that the Fiat 500 could reach the States as early as this year as a 2011 model. Although the 500's importation into the U.S. has been fast-tracked, there's still some question about whether it will meet U.S. crash and safety standards. We expect to have an exact on sale date soon, and Gilles also said that the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is due to go on sale within the next three months.

Gallery: Fiat 500


[source: Chrysler via Twitter]

Gilles: Fiat 500 on sale in U.S. by the end of 2010 originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 11 Feb 2010 14:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Sweet. So are they going to build them in Mexico or import them from Poland, where they are currently made?

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Wow, that was quick. How long did Fiat 'have' Chrysler for, 8 months? It seems like retooling the Toluca plant for 500 production was priority #1:

Mexico: Fiat Preps for U.S. Comeback With 500

Published Feb 11, 2010

TOLUCA, Mexico — The Fiat 500 started rolling out of the Toluca assembly plant here this week, the first step in the automaker's return to the U.S. market after a 15-year absence. Fiat President Sergio Marchionne, along with Mexico President Felipe Calderón, were present as production kicked off on the Cinquecento hatchback.

The 2011 Fiat 500 will be the flagship for the Italian automaker's comeback to the U.S. market. Other Fiat and Lancia vehicles will be re-branded as Chryslers, Dodges or Jeeps. But Fiat intends to push its own brand through the 500 and eventually differentiate its cars from Chrysler's brands.

The challenge will be significant. The 500 is a tiny three-door hatchback with extremely limited space for rear passengers. Although it was clearly not designed for the U.S. market, the model has proven to be a hot seller elsewhere, especially in Europe and Brazil. Its fuel efficiency in a time of rising oil prices should be a selling point, and its retro styling could win it U.S. fans in much the same fashion as the similarly sized Mini Cooper.

Fiat announced it will produce between 100,000 and 130,000 vehicles a year for the U.S. market, as well as Mexico and South America. The Mexican government, through its development banks, Nacional Financiera and Bancomext, loaned $400 million at preferential interest rates so the Toluca facility could be retooled. In addition to the technology and internal resources of the Italian automaker, the assembly plant received a total investment of around $550 million.

Fiat assembled its first car in North America in 1910 at a plant located in Poughkeepsie, New York, which was idled not long afterward with the arrival of World War I. Fiat's footprint in the U.S. for the past century was weak and its distribution network was limited. The automaker pulled out of the U.S. market altogether in the 1980s.

Inside Line says: Whether we're ready or not, Fiat-Chrysler is gearing up to build the 2011 Fiat 500 in Mexico. — Loriana Marietta, Correspondent


Video of announcement here:

Lunes, 8 de Febrero de 2010, Toluca de Lerdo.- Intervención del Presidente Felipe Calderón durante el Anuncio Oficial de la Fabricación del Vehículo FIAT 500, que se llevó a cabo en la Planta del Grupo Chrysler, en el Municipio de Toluca de Lerdo.

México Gobierno Federal, Presidencia de la República, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

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While I'm pleasantly surprised at how quickly they did it, I hope Chrysler/FIAT do a good job branding, marketing, and engineering the 500 for the US market.

Ford took an eternity testing and engineering the Fiesta to American standards (regular fuel, lower highway RPMs, etc) - and they did the whole nationwide Fiesta Movement thing. When MINI first came here, they also did a brilliant job advertising...


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>>"... the first step in the automaker's return to the U.S. market after a 15-year absence..."<<

>>"...The automaker pulled out of the U.S. market altogether in the 1980s..."<<

Does it seem to anyone that the 1980s was only 15 years ago ?? :P

-- -- -- -- --

500 strongly reminds me of a taller, shorter, fussier Mini.

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