DETROIT -- The 2012 Fiat 500, heading to U.S. dealerships later than first expected, is enduring another hiccup: The first units arriving in dealerships in late February will have manual transmissions, the company said.
Moreover, only about 20 percent of the 130 Fiat dealerships will be open when those first cars arrive, said Laura Soave, head of the Fiat brand in North America, at the Detroit auto show last week.
"We will really start to ramp up in March and April," Soave said. That's when 500s with six-speed automatic transmissions from Aisin Seiki Co. will begin arriving in dealerships. Chrysler expects that most 500s sold in the United States will have automatics.
Meanwhile, the first Fiat dealership -- Motor Village of L.A. in Los Angeles -- is due to open this month, Soave said. That dealership, showcased by Chrysler at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, is owned by the automaker and will be a laboratory for new retailing techniques. It will carry all four Chrysler brands and Fiat.