Fiat cars coming to Richmond dealership

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You'll soon see little Italian cars zipping around Richmond. A Richmond dealership will be part of Fiat's return to the United States.

The first Fiat for sale in Richmond in 30 years drew crowds at this weekend's auto show.

"I think it's really nice. I'm glad to see Fiat back in the market. Looks like a lot of content for the money," said Don Reichs, an attendee admiring the car.

After buying 25 percent of Chrysler, Fiat invited 250 dealerships to apply to sell their fuel efficient cars and 130 were chosen, including Whitten Brothers in Richmond. The Italian cars have been Americanized.

"They're made in Europe but changed for America. It's got a little different suspension for America, they put more power in it. They added cup holders," said Said Jimmy Whitten, co-owner of Whitten Brothers.

They'll come in 15 colors with 15 different interiors. Prices, Whitten says, will start at $15,500, including power windows and locks, airbags, and cruise control. "It's cheap. It's good on gas. And it comes with a four-year, 50,000 mile warranty, plus maintenance for four years, so you'll buy it and won't spend a dime."

Whitten Brothers is building a new showroom, made to Fiat's specifications. Whitten says there will be Italian marble floors and no desks. Instead customers will sit in leather chairs in conversation areas. In fact, Whitten says that will influence how he sells all his cars. "Everyone should sit around a round table with a nice leather chair and discuss their business rather than buy and sell from each other."

Chrysler is expecting to swing from a $650 million loss last year to a $200 million+ net profit this year. Whitten says Fiat is improving Chrysler cars.

"They've redone our cars, all our interiors are soft, very luxurious, the gas mileage has improved," said Whitten.

You'll start seeing Fiats racing down roads by May.

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