Fiat 500 sales to hit 100,000 in North America

Fiat is on track to reach 100,000 sales of the Fiat 500 in North America within months, two years after the small car's launch, the company's North America division head said Wednesday.

"The rate of growth is pretty substantial, even though it's not a massive million-unit number," Tim Kuniskis told AFP.

Kuniskis' comments came as the Italian auto giant, which now controls number three US maker Chrysler, plans launches in April of a 500-series electric car and in June of the 500L, a five-door "family"-sized version.

That will take their offerings to seven models for the surging US market.

Kuniskis projected Fiat's total North America sales will hit the 100,000 benchmark in April or May, after selling 26,290 cars in 2011 and 55,600 units last year.

As for 2013, Kuniskis said, "The only number I'm going to give is I'm going to do better this year than I did last year."

Kuniskis depicted Fiat's strategy in North America as filling a void within Chrysler's line of sedans, minivans and pickups.

"There's an obvious hole", he said: "The small, city car, high fuel efficiency product offering."

One hope is that customers of the small 500s could eventually get interested in Chrysler makes like Jeep or Dodge.

There is "zero cannibalization" among brands, Kuniskis said.

Fiat took a 20 percent stake in Chrysler in 2009 as the third largest US automaker emerged from a government-financed restructuring under bankruptcy protection.

Fiat has since expanded its shareholding to a majority stake, and Sergio Marchionne, who heads both companies, has said a full merger would take place in 2014.

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