DETROIT - The Detroit Institute of Arts will serve as the backdrop for Chrysler Group's “The Fiat Experience” for dealers on Aug. 30.

Chrysler has invited roughly 600 dealers to Detroit to hear the company's plans for relaunching the Fiat brand in North America - and registration for the event opened today.

The Detroit Institute of Arts makes a dramatic setting for the introduction of a European brand to North America. The museum's cavernous Rivera Court features a series of murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera depicting the history of the automobile industry.

Jerry Golinvaux, owner of Roseville Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Roseville, Minn., wasted no time signing up for the Detroit meeting, confirming his attendance via email this morning. He and his son David, the general manager, will attend.

“We very much would like to have it. We think it's going to be a great vehicle that will augment some of the Chrysler products," Golinvaux said. "We do understand that eventually, as the sales volumes increase to the levels we would move it into a separate facility. We see the small car industry in the United States increasing in the next few years.”

Golinvaux believes Chrysler will only choose two Fiat dealerships in the Twin Cities and he believes he's qualified to be one of them.

“We have recently remodeled a facility that meets all of Chrysler's facility requirements. We have met the Gold Standards level under their new program in the first two quarters. Our dealership is well capitalized. We're profitable. We exceed all the capital requirements. We exceed the minimum sales responsibilities. We're pretty excited about it. We think we're an outstanding candidate for the franchise.”

Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel said the company doesn't know how many dealers have accepted the invitation to come to Detroit. Visiting dealers will stay in Detroit's MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. The dealers will be responsible for paying their own expenses.

Only two representatives from each dealership will be allowed to attend: the dealer principal and/or the general manager as listed on the dealer agreement.

An invitation was sent to the dealers on Aug. 9 by Laura Soave, head of Fiat North America, and Peter Grady, Chrysler's vice president of network development and fleet.

The company will ask interested dealers to present proposals by Sept. 22. The automaker will choose the Fiat franchisees in early October.

The first Fiat to go on sale will be the Fiat 500 minicar, which is scheduled to go into production in Toluca, Mexico during the fourth quarter. Three other 500-based models are scheduled to go on sale by 2013, including a convertible, a sporty Abarth and a four-door hatchback with a raised roof.

“The requirements for Fiat are straightforward: separate sales and display at launch, transitioning to a full dealership facility as the volume grows,” Grady said in a statement.

Dealers may also get the chance to sell Alfa Romeos. The brand is expected to return to the U.S. market in 2012.

Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel declined to discuss future Alfa Romeo products or any Alfa Romeo network, but said the Fiat network “might be expanded as more new products are added to the lineup.”

Chrysler extended the invitations to dealers in 36 states and Puerto Rico, with plans to establish franchises in 119 markets. Chrysler plans to grant about 200 Fiat franchises across those markets.

The company said those markets have “strong small-car registrations and growth potential in the small-car segment over the next five years.”

Kisiel said some non-Chrysler dealers might get an opportunity for Fiat franchises if no Chrysler dealers come up with satisfactory proposals in a given market.

“In that kind of circumstances we might consider a non-Chrysler dealer,” Kisiel said. “We won't know that until these dealers come to the meeting and learn what they need to know and submit their proposals.”

Chrysler said it will evaluate dealers on a number of criteria, including:

  • Sales performance;
  • Plans for a separate Fiat facility;
  • Comprehensive marketing plans;
  • Compliance with dealer standards; and
  • Proper capitalization.

Fiat acquired management control of Chrysler last year as part of the U.S. government's rescue of the automaker. Under the alliance, Fiat is using Chrysler's sales network to reintroduce the Fiat brand in America. Fiat withdrew from the U.S. market in 1984 and Alfa Romeo left in 1995.

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