Sooner or later, politicians and bureaucrats will decide the fate of the fledgling hook-up between Chrysler and Fiat.
As it stands, the deal would bring Fiat vehicles to America within the next two years, though powers-that-be in Washington -- and maybe Rome -- will get a chance to stick their fingers into the deal.
And who knows? Depending on the terms of the Chrysler bailout, European Union officials in Brussels and World Trade Organization technocrats in Geneva may grab a piece of the action, too.
But since the United States is a market economy -- or at least it used to be -- the ultimate judges of any Chrysler-Fiat deal will be consumers.
So what does the car-buying public think about Fiat? Do Americans remember that the last time Fiats were sold here they had a reputation for stinky quality?
Not as many as you might imagine.
Consumers have fairly optimistic expectations of Fiat vehicles, according to a survey by the global research firm TNS.
TNS surveyed 2,500 U.S. consumers and found that nearly 40 percent expect Fiat cars to achieve better-than-average fuel economy, and only 10 percent thought mpg would be worse than average.
Fiat also got pretty good marks in expectations about performance and styling.
Although expectations about the quality and reliability of Fiat vehicles were at the bottom of the heap, they werent all that bad.
TNS reports that only about 22 percent of the people surveyed expect Fiat quality and reliability to be worse that average, about the same number who expect it to be better than average.
Apparently most Americans have forgotten the old joke that the letters in Fiat stand for Fix it again, Tony.
Since Chryslers quality and reliability reputation tends to be a little shabby right now, selling Fiat vehicles with a Dodge or Chrysler badge could immediately improve the image of those brands.
Tell that punch line to the gang in Washington.