Fiat Returns To North America — Good News For Those Who Are Serious About Imports!

Fiat Returns To North America — Good News For Those Who Are Serious About Imports!

While the announcement by Chrysler Group LLC last month that it will resurrect the Fiat 500 was a breath of fresh air for some, others likely raised eyebrows as they would just as soon forget the Italian automaker that stumbled along in the U.S. market more than 25 years ago. The nameplate got a bad rap that Fiat meant “Fix It Again, Tony,” as a result of its mechanical maladies, early rust and a poor resale value.

Built in Chrysler Group’s assembly plant in Toluca, Mexico, the 2012 Cinquecento (say “cheen-kay-CHEN-toh”) will go on sale beginning in January by 130 Chrysler dealers who were chosen to represent the Fiat brand in the U.S.

Also named the Italian Mini Cooper, the Fiat 500 is already creating a buzz in the import sector. Just ask W. Michael Brown, president, Olympus Imported Auto Parts Corp., a five-location warehouse distributor with headquarters in Alexandria, VA, who reflects back on the early days of his business and how he carved out a niche in the import marketplace by sourcing and stocking   hard-to-find parts for imports.

“As an import specialist, we always get excited any time a new nameplate, in this case, re-enters the market. There were a number of popular models: 124, 128, 131, 850, Spider 2000, Brava, Strada and X 1/9,” recalls Brown. “We sold a whole bunch of replacement parts for all of these models.”

While Brown contends that a frequent need for repairs and replacement parts led to Fiat’s demise, he thinks it’s great that it is making a return. In fact, he says, “We wish they’d bring back MGs, Triumphs, Renaults and Peugeots.”

Bill Guinard, vice president of Olympus Imported Auto Parts Corp., echoes Brown’s sentiments. “I guess they are banking on the American public not remembering the amount of under-powered econo-boxes they used to sell, specifically the 131 and the 128,” remarks Guinard. “When they wanted to make a sports car, they got it right…witness the popularity of the 124 Spider. It will be intriguing to see what they offer.”

“Another import nameplate and, by extension, more part numbers, redounds positively for us who focus on providing parts for import cars,” Brown continues. “With more proliferation, the more difficult it becomes for the big box stores, as well as other traditionally domestic suppliers, to stock anything but the very fast-moving parts, rendering them as commodities.

“We, as import specialists, will look at Fiat as another product line and we will source not only the fast movers, but a more comprehensive and in-depth group of replacement parts for these vehicles. That’s what we do.

“It requires more dollars in on-hand inventory, but gives us a competitive advantage against those who simply cherry-pick the product lines for only the fastest moving parts.

“The more (import nameplates) the merrier. We look forward to Fiat coming soon to our marketplace.”


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