Channel | Auto Industry News

Fiat Names New North American Chief

Laura Soave, head of the Fiat brand for North America, is no longer employed by Chrysler Group LLC.

Effective Monday, she has been replaced by Timothy Kuniskis, a 19-year veteran of Chrysler who was director of product marketing for the Fiat and Chrysler brands.

Soave was still in the top Fiat position for North American last week at the Los Angeles auto show, but there had been growing speculation she would lose her job. The automaker announced today that she has left the company “and will pursue other interests.”

Asked if Soave was still in charge on Wednesday, Olivier Francois, head of the Fiat brand globally, said “sure, sure, sure” in an interview with The Detroit News.

The change in leadership comes on the heels of failed efforts to get Fiat dealerships up and running in the United States in a timely manner.

Sales of the Fiat 500, at about 15,800 through October, are far below what is needed to meet initial projections of 50,000 a year.

The Fiat advertising campaign, featuring actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, also has been criticized.

In Los Angeles, Fiat showed the new 2012 500 Abarth, a performance version of the tiny car, as well as the Gucci edition tailored more to women.

The Gucci edition goes on sale next month; the Abarth follows early next year. Fiat is also adding an electric 500 to the lineup next year.

“Tim brings broad expertise and leadership in dealer operations and marketing, where he has been already working with the team to shape the direction of the Fiat Brand,” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement.

“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,” Marchionne said.

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