Chrysler appoints new CEO for Fiat Brand in US image

Chrysler Group on Monday named a new head of its Fiat brand for the United States, replacing Laura Soave, who has left the company to pursue other interests.

Timothy Kuniskis, 44, most recently was director of marketing for the Chrysler and Fiat brands. The change is effective immediately, Chrysler said in a statement.

However, the move represents troubles the Italian brand has encountered as it tries to re-enter the U.S market after a decades-long absence.

“As North American head of Fiat, much of his immediate focus will be working with the dealer body where his fresh perspective from the operational side, as well as that on the commercial side, will begin the Fiat brand’s next chapter.”

timothy-kuniskis-fiat-usa-ceoWhen Fiat had introduced the little 500 to North America back in March, Fiat had high expectations for the retro-chic hatch, expecting to move as many as 50,000 cars by year’s end. But since then, Fiat sold fewer than 16,000 units.

Reports say some dealers have sold as few as 49 cars since opening in March while others have sold as many as 370. Sales are said to be strongest in California and the Southeast, and weakest in the Midwest. The report also says that of the 150 Fiat dealers in the States, 29 didn’t sell a single one last month.

Now, because of that, the company has more 1.4L MultiAir engines than they need so the automaker has plans to lay off a currently undisclosed number of workers at the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance plant in Dundee Michigan.

“The brand has had difficulty gaining traction due to the dealership network not being fully up and running,” said Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst with IHS Automotive.