Davis-Moore Auto Group will add a Fiat dealership to its list of Wichita car lots.
The company said Friday that Fiat of Wichita will open at 5927 E. Kellogg, where it used to sell its pre-owned Nissans. An exact opening date has not been set, but company officials expect to receive their first shipment of Fiats in the next 30 days. Fiat currently has one subcompact model in three variations for the U.S.: the base 500, the 500 Cabrio and the new 500 Abarth. The 500’s starting price is $15,500.
“We had the opportunity to be exclusive Fiat in Wichita, and we thought that was pretty cool,” Davis-Moore president Dawson Grimsley said. “We were always told Wichita is not a big enough market for Fiat, and I kind of razzed them a little bit.”
Fiat dealerships are awarded to Chrysler dealers because the Italian carmaker has a more than 50 percent stake in Chrysler. Besides operating a Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership, Davis-Moore also has Nissan, Mazda, Lincoln and Chevrolet dealerships.
Grimsley said he was contacted a month ago about potentially starting a Fiat dealership. He said he’s had customers approach him about selling Fiats. And Grimsley said having a Fiat dealership will get him closer to selling Alfa Romeos once that venerable Italian car brand begins selling in the U.S. Alfa Romeo is also owned by Fiat.
Grimsley said the former Nissan store will be remodeled to accommodate the new Fiat “studio,” which is what Fiat calls its stores. He said he won’t immediately build a new building. Grimsley also said the company is in the process of selecting managers and staff to operate the Fiat store.
More than a year ago, Chrysler awarded 130 of its dealers a Fiat studio, bypassing Wichita mostly for much larger metropolitan areas.
“Wichita was not on our original list of 130, but we had the area in our sights because of the number of small car registrations,” Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel said in an e-mail. “Now we’re moving ahead with plans to add another 20 or so more. You can say that FIAT of Wichita will be part of this next flurry.”
Bill Visnic, Edmunds.com analyst and senior editor, said Chrysler is probably pushing for an expansion into Wichita and other markets because Fiat hasn’t seen the sales of units reach the level that the automaker was predicting earlier.
“Chrysler really feels like they need to get this nationwide presence” to sell more cars, Visnic said.