DETROIT -- Fiat is adding the first non-Chrysler Group dealers to its fledgling retail network, says Laura Soave, lead executive of Fiat in North America.
Fiat has sent letters of intent to seven non-Chrysler dealers, said a Chrysler spokesman.
The Italian brand still plans to have 130 dealerships open by the end of 2011; 59 had opened as of last week.
The original list of 130 was made up entirely of Chrysler dealers. But dealership plans that initially had been approved by Fiat fell through for various reasons, such as rejected building permits, and the dealers decided not to proceed.
Chrysler has said from the beginning that Chrysler dealers would get first crack at the Fiat franchise. Then non-Chrysler dealers would be considered.
Soave said Chrysler still plans to add 35 dealerships to the network by the end of 2012, bringing the total to 165.
When Fiat was reintroduced in North America late last year, some dealers said the company was allowing them little time to design their stores, obtain building permits and hire contractors.
Soave said it was more important to get facilities right than to rush ahead with half-baked plans. She said: "One of the things we're committed to is the network, that the first impression is perfect."