With more advertising, 0 percent financing for consumers, new products and new brand leadership, Fiat dealers is in a better place than they were six months ago.
Fiat also has stopped airing TV commercials starring entertainer Jennifer Lopez.
Tim Kuniskis, 45, took over as head of the Fiat brand in North America in November, replacing Laura Soave, who left the company after 20 months. Kuniskis had been assisting Soave during her last several months on the job while also working as head of marketing for the Chrysler brand.
Since his promotion -- and armed with a mandate from Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to fix what had gone wrong -- Kuniskis visited each of the brand's nearly 140 U.S. dealers during a two-week period. He has changed the way the 500 is marketed, and increased national and local advertising for the car.
Kuniskis "went eyeball to eyeball with every one of us, and that wasn't always easy," says Lisa Copeland, general manager of Fiat of Austin in Texas.
"I think Tim is the right guy at the right time," Copeland said.
Chrysler Group surprised many by running its popular 30-second "Seduction" online video for the Fiat 500 Abarth as a commercial during the Super Bowl.
The Abarth, which has a 160-hp 1.4-liter engine with Fiat's MultiAir variable valve system and a five-speed manual transmission, goes on sale in spring. Marchionne said it will be followed this year by an electric version of the subcompact, and in 2013 by the four-door 500L and an Alfa Romeo vehicle that has not been identified.