TO THE EDITOR:
"Fiat's U.S. dealers, once optimistic, are in the dark on the brand's future" (autonews.com, June 9) brings to mind the quote "History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes."
I was a Ford stylist in 1957 when the Edsel was launched — in mandatory free-standing dealerships. Thousands of dealers were driven into bankruptcy in arguably the biggest failure (PR-wise for sure) in Ford history. I saw the mistake from the beginning.
When Chrysler launched the not quite fully baked Fiat in the U.S., demanding free-standing dealerships, an "Edsel rhyme" was obvious. Quality issues aside, contributing to the problems were easily improvable, inexcusable design and marketing weaknesses.
In 1981, Chrysler's sales and marketing vice presidents were opposed to my convertible proposal, but Hal Sperlich, the product planning VP and "father of the minivan," backed me. Seven years later, Chrysler found the LeBaron was the most popular convertible in the world!
Give me a shot at the Fiat 124 Spider and the rest of the line, and I'll show them paths to improved visibility, image and sales, averting an Edsel debacle.
BOB MARCKS, Scottsdale, Ariz. The writer is a former Ford stylist and retired Chrysler designer and product planning and marketing manager.