DETROIT -- Don Lee thinks he can make money with Fiat and Alfa Romeo at a vacant showroom next to his dealership. The big question:
How long will it take?
"I think there's a decent business case if you take the long view," says Lee, president of Lee Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep in Westbrook, Maine.
Among the short-term concerns: Initially, Fiat will have just one model -- the Fiat 500 minicar, scheduled to arrive late this year. Service revenue will be only a trickle at the beginning.
The Alfa Romeo brand will arrive in 2012, but it likely will be 2014 before the full Alfa lineup is in place.
And Chrysler Group gave no guarantees last week, at a meeting here with 400 prospective Fiat dealers, that those who sell Fiat also will get Alfa -- although Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said they probably will.
On the plus side, Chrysler predicts healthy gross profits of up to $1,500 on each Fiat 500. Each dealership will get a large market area, and Fiat and Alfa should lure young customers to Chrysler Group dealerships.
So for dealers with capital and patience, the business case is attractive. At the beginning, though, it's less so.