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. Since then it has developed vehicles meant to appeal both to cost-conscious and traditional, sports-minded drivers.
Its Fiat 500, a four-cylinder subcompact, will be the only new car on the Barton Fiat lot, sales manager Craig Cooper said. 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 new Barton Fiat dealership, at 1002 W. Second Ave., is on the same property where Barton operated its Saturn dealership from 1990 to 2010.
That year the Barton Saturn dealership sold its last Saturn vehicle after parent automaker GM decided to shut down the brand.
Since then the Bartons have kept the downtown dealership open by 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.
Much like the GM-Saturn arrangement, Fiat is offering the Bartons regional exclusivity. The nearest other Fiat dealers are in Seattle and Boise, Barton said.
“The Barton family really was very helpful, keeping the dealership going since 2010,” Cooper said. They kept the downtown dealership going by managing it carefully and offering quality service and parts, Cooper said.
The added benefit of the Fiat alliance, Barton said, is the ability to sell the next new line of Alfa Romeos. The sporty new Alfas, which are part of the Fiat family, should hit the U.S. market in 2013, he said.