by Jeff Gilbert
WWJ AutoBeat Reporter
Fiat has arrived in Metro Detroit.
Dealer Bill Golling is opening his Bloomfield Township franchise, Wednesday. Next week, a Macomb County store owned by Carl Galeana will open on Hall Road, near Romeo Plank.
“Having been an ex Alpha Romeo dealer back in the 80’s, when Chrysler was doing that, I definitely wanted to be a part of Fiat. It’s a new game in town, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Fiat dealer Carl Galeana talks with WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert about his new venture.
Now things are reversed, with Fiat controlling Chrysler, and Sergio Marchionne as CEO of both companies. Marchionne has said that his long term plans are to merge into one company, possibly headquartered in Auburn Hills.
Galeana is converting his former Saturn dealership into a new shop that will sell Fiat’s. He says construction will continue through next week’s grand opening, and they’ll have a formal grand opening in the future.
The plan is to sell Fiat as an exotic, affordable small car. The first vehicle Fiat will sell is the small 500.
“It gets back to the Italian design and style, with technology at an affordable price,” said Fiat brand CEO Laura Soave, speaking to WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert, when the Fiat 500 debuted at last year’s LA Auto Show.
The Fiat 500 has a base price of $15,500, and will max out just under $20,000.
A performance version of the 500 will follow as will a convertible, as well as an electric version. Fiat hasn’t promised any other models…but has hinted that it would like to have a full lineup, and would also like to bring Alpha Romeo back to the U.S.
Galeana is gearing up his showroom with the assumption that he will have a lot of vehicles to sell.
“Sometimes when you’re on a dock, you have to jump in the water,” he said. “You don’t know if it’s going to be really cold or not, but you jump in anyway.”
Galeana kept some of the core workers from his Saturn dealership, and is bringing some others back from layoff. He’ll likely hire more workers as Fiat sales increase. He says starting a new Fiat dealership brings back memories of 20 years ago when he was one of the first Saturn dealers.
“We’re in the game. It may take a little while to get this up and running investment wise. But, we feel it’s the right move.”
Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter @jefferygilbert.