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Fiat dealer says new car catching on

ST. ALBANS, W.Va -- Fred Langille waited a long time to buy his Fiat 500.

Fiat, the Italian car company, left the United States in the 1960s, but recently reinvested in the American market. The company acquired Chrysler and launched a new Fiat line with it.

At Moses Fiat in St. Albans, one of two Fiat dealerships in the state, cars are selling fast while attracting diverse ownership.

"One thing that was surprising to me, and I've been around the car business for about 19 years, is there's not a particular segment that purchases this car," sales manager Wes Crist said. "Anybody who walks on the property here very well may want a Fiat, where I don't think you could probably say that with any other brand."

In the first month, Moses sold 14 units. Owner Steve Moses expects that to be the norm.

"We were really taken by the product," Moses said. "It's a small economical safe car, but it just really has a lot of flair."

The Fiat flair at Moses ranges from neon yellow and pastel colored cars, Beats audio systems standard and a Gucci Fiat 500 edition equipped with Gucci interior and wheels.

"You have a real sense of style that is uniquely Italian," Moses added.

Fiat will use Chrysler as a backbone for distribution, parts, training and staff. "They have the platform in American to do that (bring Fiat back to America) now," Moses said.

Langille, a retired disabled veteran from Huntington, recalls his neighbor's Fiat 850 Spider.

"I thought, that thing is cool and I almost bought one," he said. "Never did, now I have my own Fiat."

He traded in two cars -- a Buick and a Smart car -- for his new ride, and describes his purchase as "comfortable." 

"I just felt the quality doing a test drive several months ago was unbelievably good," Langille said. "This isn't Uncle Tony's Fiat anymore."

Moses describes the Fiat 500 as the company's staple car, with a price from $16,000 to $24,000. Crist said for some people, the 500's fuel efficiency is enticing.

"I sold a Fiat 500 to a lady who does home health, and the 40 miles to the gallon was exactly what she wanted," he said.

As Fiat returns to America, it is introducing a new car model worldwide, the Fiat 500L.

The 500L is a larger four-door car starting at $22,000. Moses received their first shipment of 500Ls the first week of July and sold the first three units in just eight days.

The 500L features a more powerful Abarth engine. Moses said Fiat is also reintroducing the Alfa Romeo, the four-door Italian sports car line, and will become Moses Fiat and Alfa Romeo as soon as December. Next year, Fiat will release a crossover, all-wheel drive vehicle that will have a Jeep platform.

"I think its something that is here to stay for us," Moses said. Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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