Fiat to Return to U.S. Market after Nearly 30 Years

After being absent from the since 1984, Fiat S.p.A. is poised to re-enter the market this December with its Made-in-Mexico, Fiat 500 small car. The Italian automaker, which has a controlling interest in Chrysler Group, hopes to make a big splash with its new small car.

Depending on the source you talk to, Fiat’s 2011 sales target for the 500 is somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 units.

The 500 will compete with other small cars, including the MINI, and will be sold through approximately 200 of Chrysler’s dealers located primarily in larger metropolitan areas.

The 500 minicar will be available in four variations including a four-door hatchback, to be called the Fiat Lungo, a two-door convertible, an Abarth variant with reportedly 160 hp under the hood, and the Estate Giardiniera.

The Fiat 500 has been rated at 36 mpg using the official European combined driving cycle. The North American-engineered model is expected to get around 30 mpg/city and 40 mpg/highway.

The first arrival to U.S. dealers will be the two-door hatchback this December. The model will be equipped with a 100-hp, 1.4-liter FIRE engine and Fiat’s MultiAir technology, which improves both fuel efficiency and performance.

Fiat will manufacture the bodies at its Toluca, Mexico plant and ship the gliders to Chrysler’s Dundee, Michigan facilities where the final assembly, including engine installations, will be performed.

Fiat plans to begin selling the convertible model later in 2011 and has announced plans to introduce an electric version in 2012. The EV model will be powered by a lithium-ion battery pack.

The Abarth performance model will also be introduced in 2012. The Fiat 500 Abarth will reportedly come with an imported 1.4-liter FIRE turbo engine.

A four-door model is also scheduled to go on sale in Europe that same year. The yet-to-be-named, four-door variant will officially be classified as a small minivan and will feature a hatchback and a higher roofline than the two-door models. Fiat says the four-door model, which will be built in Turin, Italy, will have a longer and wider platform that the two-door model. The automaker has not announced a target launch date for North American sales.

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