With monthly sales struggling to break 1,000, some dealers believe the story of the Fiat brand in the U.S. is already in its final chapters.
But Nyle Maxwell Fiat-Alfa Romeo in Austin, Texas, isn't ready to close the book just yet.
The dealership, formerly known as Fiat of Austin, isn't setting the world on fire selling an average of 30 cars per month. That's a far cry from the store's 2012 heyday, when it was the top Fiat dealership in the country with sales of 972.
But the store says it's getting by, thanks to a wide demographic of buyers and a commitment to customer service. The store has earned J.D. Power's Customer First Award for Excellence the last two quarters.
The store first set up shop in a high-end shopping center and featured a runway that created a fashionable aura. Back then, Fiat had a clear value proposition as consumers were turning in their fuel-thirsty trucks and utility vehicles to shield themselves from $4-a-gallon gasoline.
The store moved to its current location in 2014 as Fiat began its quick descent, weighed down by falling gas prices, quality issues and the market's shift toward crossovers.
Brent Rayfield, who has worked there since 2011, still sees a future for a brand that he says is in its infancy.
The store was losing money when Rayfield became a managing partner in 2016, so it focused on advertising more effectively and putting the vehicle "out there in the market for people to see in person," he said.
Advertising is "100 percent up to dealers" right now, he said, amid a dearth of national marketing support by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Rayfield said Fiat dealers "need to remember why this brand is fun, exciting, young and cool and really commit to that," and then hire people who are as excited as they are. The store has assembled a new team of sales staffers, managers, service advisers and parts employees in recent years, Rayfield said, and reworked its business processes to be more effective.
Rayfield said his staffers believe in the brand, with at least half of them owning Fiats. He prefers to hire salespeople new to auto retailing.
The store's clientele ranges from teenage first-time buyers to senior citizens. The 124 Spider roadster, based on the Mazda MX-5 Miata, has found a sweet spot among men in their 50s, but Rayfield said other models draw a variety of buyers.
The store is looking to nearly double its average this month with a goal of 59. As of June 18, the store had already sold 29.