People used to ridicule Fiat’s reliability, joking that it stood for “Fix it again Tony.” Still, in 2007 the Turin-based automaker redesigned its historic 500 model and began to reinvent itself. Now its improved cars have made their way to the new Kelly Fiat of Peabody, while three other Massachusetts franchises, Fiat of Norwood, Fiat of Cape Cod and Fiat of Worcester, will open their doors later this year.
“It’s high time for Fiat,” says Carmine Federico, sales specialist at Kelly Fiat, which opened on March 4. “We wanted to dedicate all our efforts to promoting the brand because we believe in it so much.”Federico calls the 500 “unique and a great product,” and says it brings something new to an American market where Japanese models have long reigned.
The 500 currently sells in more than 80 countries and has picked up a number of prestigious awards in recent years, winning European Car of the Year in 2008 and World Car Design of the Year in 2009. Last year the engine technology also garnered a great deal of attention, including awards from Popular Science magazine and UK television program “Top Gear.”
Though the push to support American-made products continues to grow, Federico isn’t worried. “It’s an Italian car, people relate that to exotic lifestyles,” he says, adding that the public is curious about Italian automobiles, but has rarely seen one for the price of the 500, which ranges from $15,500 to $19,500. Federico also predicts that rising gas prices will boost interest in the compact, fuel-efficient car, which gets up to 38 miles per gallon.
And with 20 cars already sold at Kelly Fiat, the Italian icon is on its way to a real U.S. comeback.