DETROIT -- About 200 Chrysler Group dealers will get franchises to sell the Fiat 500 minicar. Qualifying dealers, primarily in metro areas, will have to set up a "completely separate facility" and staff for Fiat, the company said.
Chrysler is sending out application packets this week to dealerships in 125 markets in 41 states that it has identified as prime growth markets for small cars over the next five years, said Ralph Kisiel, a Chrysler spokesman.
Dealers will be graded on a number of factors, including their ability to meet sales goals, their scores on Chrysler's new Dealer Standards program, and their capitalization and facilities, including service, parts and training capabilities.
Sales of accessories and branded merchandise also will be a big part of the 500 business.
Dealers who get high scores in Chrysler's new Dealer Standards program will be given special consideration, Kisiel said. But those dealers awarded the Fiat franchise will be required to meet a separate set of Fiat standards.
Eligible dealers who fill out the applications will be invited to meetings in Detroit for an in-depth briefing on Fiat's expectations, Kisiel said.
"This will be a long process," he said. "We don't anticipate announcing the actual Fiat dealer locations in the network until probably September. Once the proposals start coming in, we'll go over them carefully. Dealers in the target markets that submit proposals will be invited to a meeting here in Auburn Hills."
Chrysler expects to start selling the 500 late in the fourth quarter. The car will be made at Chrysler's Toluca, Mexico, factory.