Chrysler names new Fiat head for US

AP News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2011 3:49 PM
Chrysler names new Fiat head for US

Chrysler named a new head of its Fiat brand for the United States on Monday, nearly a year after the small Italian cars made their return to the United States.

Chrysler Group LLC said that Laura Soave, who was named as the Fiat brand's U.S. head last year before the North American launch of the Fiat 500, has left the company. It did not give a reason for her departure.

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler Group, which is now run by Italy's Fiat SpA, named Timothy Kuniskis as her replacement.

Kuniskis previously served as the product marketing director for both the Chrysler and Fiat brands. He joined Chrysler Group LLC in 1992 and has since held a variety of jobs in its business and marketing operations.

"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," Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

Soave joined Chrysler in March 2010 after serving as a marketing executive for Volkswagen AG's U.S. operations. Before that, she held various marketing related positions at Ford Motor Co.

Chrysler had hoped that the Fiat 500 would help boost its sales of small cars, an area where its offerings had lagged behind those of other automakers.

But despite an aggressive advertising campaign featuring singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, sales of the 500 have fallen far short of Chrysler's expectations.

Just before the cute mini-car arrived in the U.S. late last year, the company said it hoped to sell 50,000 of them in the U.S. and Canada in 2011. But as of Oct. 31, it had sold just under 21,000 in the two markets.

Last week, Chrysler and Marchionne blamed the shortfall on a lag time in opening dealerships in metropolitan areas.