Chrysler Corp. and Fiat Auto S.p.A. announced a deal Thursday that will allow Chrysler to sell Alfa Romeo sports and luxury cars from its dealerships in the United States and Canada.
Under an agreement reached by the two auto makers, Chrysler and Fiat will invest equally in a distribution company supplying the Italian-made vehicles, which include the popular Spider series and the Milano sedan.
The agreement was signed last week, but the announcement of the was withheld pending approval Thursday by Chrysler’s board of directors.
Chrysler spokeswoman Karen M. Stewart said the deal should be completed in about two months. As for start up of operations, “there is no definite time, yet,” said Gualberto Ranieri, a spokesman for Fiat. “But before the end of 1989, we do expect the new company will start operating.”
The first project between Chrysler and Fiat, the venture also calls for North American distribution of the Alfa Romeo 164 model sedan. The 164, which was introduced in Italy last year, will be available in North America at the beginning of the 1990 model year, Ranieri said.
Officials for both companies said the key objective of the still-unnamed new company would be to build on Alfa Romeo’s image as an upscale automobile.
In an written statement, Chrysler chairman Lee A. Iacocca called the deal a “good fit” in light of both companies’ efforts to attract affluent customers.
“The program combines Fiat’s recognized manufacturing, production and design expertise with Chrysler’s strong marketing and distribution capabilities in the North American market,” Iacocca said.
In the same statement, Fiat Group chairman Giovanni Agnelli said the deal would improve the car maker’s distribution efficiency. “We are confident our association with Chrysler will result in increased market opportunities to help us to reach higher sales volumes in North America.”
Alfa Romeos are currently offered through about 160 dealerships throughout the country, none of which handle the cars exclusively, Ranieri said. They will continue to sell the cars even after the deal is in place.
A spokesman in Alfa Romeo’s New Jersey office said 3,663 Alfa Romeos were sold in the United States during the first nine months of 1988, a 2,361 unit drop from January-to-September sales in 1987.