By Andrew Ganz
Monday, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 10:55 am
 
Fiat's much-ballyhooed re-entry to the United States market didn't resonate with consumers last year, so its new CEO has been tasked with turning things around with a quickness.

After Laura Soave was ousted in favor of Tim Kuniskis late last year, the Italian group's CEO, Sergio Marchionne, charged the new division chief with quickly reinvigorating a brand that suffered from weak marketing and a slow dealer roll-out, as well as middling sales that fell well short of estimates.

Automotive News reports that Kuniskis visited all of the nearly 140 Fiat outlets in the U.S. in a short two week period as part of an early effort to more directly figure out why the automaker's 500 minicar was missing its target. Dealers spent millions on new or rehabilitated showrooms to sell the car, but many have reported that they are losing money thanks to mediocre demand.

The most immediately visible change Kuniskis has enacted so far revolves not surprisingly around the brand's marketing efforts Gone is an ill-fated advertising campaign starring Jennifer Lopez and in its place is a new emphasis on regional spots and more edgy marketing like the Fiat 500 Abarth ad from the Super Bowl, which featured a European model and was clearly aimed at male buyers.

But Fiat has also made the unprecedented move of slapping a $500 incentive or 0 percent financing on the hood of every 500. Special $199 per month lease deals are also designed to move some metal.