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Office Hours

Tue., May 15, 2012, 4:10 p.m.

Here comes the Fiat 500. Barton Fiat opens its downtown dealership

Barton Auto Group gets back into selling new cars in downtown Spokane this week, launching the area's only Fiat dealership.

Fiat, the longtime Italian carmaker, joined forces with Chrysler in 2009 and ended up taking a 58 percent stake in the company. It's been more than two years since the Bartons used their dealership at Monroe and Second to sell new vehicles.

Starting Wednesday, Barton Fiat, at 1002 W. Second, will sell the Fiat 500, the Italian-made subcompact that is aimed at drivers wanting a small but sporty vehicle.

It comes in five models. Later this year, the higher-end, turbocharged version, the Fiat Abarth, will be added to the mix, said Jeff Barton, president of Barton Auto Group.

The locally owned dealership also operates Barton Jeep in the Spokane Valley and is building a Barton dealership on Newport Highway. It will open later this year.

In 2010 the Barton Saturn dealership sold its last Saturn, after parent automaker GM decided to shut down the brand.

Since then the Bartons have kept open the downtown dealership selling used cars and managing costs carefully. Jeff Barton said the family hoped to get the first Fiats in 2011 but the Italian company only released them to major U.S. cities last year.

The only other Fiat dealers nearby are in Boise and Seattle.

Wire photo: The Fiat Abarth, sport class

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Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.