Posted by Dale Buss on November 21, 2011 05:01 PM
She hired Jennifer Lopez, hit New York Fashion Week with Gucci in tow, put JLo in a Gucci-wrapped Fiat car, and even put a Fiat on stage with JLo in what's been called the most "brazen" product placement in some time. Fiat North America head Laura Soave also oversaw launch marketing for the 2012 Fiat 500 that channeled Elvis Presley, brought drive-in movies, bocce and espresso to Times Square and other cities — but none of it sold the new 500 in the U.S. market the way that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne had hoped.
So on Monday Marchionne ousted Soave and named a new head of the Fiat brand for North America: Timothy Kuniskis, who was director of marketing for Chrysler and Fiat brands and now replaces Soave as head of Fiat North America. Soave, meanwhile, is leaving the company "other interests," the company stated in that favorite of corporate euphemisms.
"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," Marchionne said in a statement. "As North American head of Fiat, much of his immediate focus will be working with the dealer body where his fresh perspective from the operational side, as well as that on the commercial side, will begtin the Fiat brand's next chapter."
Let's hope so, because the Fiat brand's first new chapter in the U.S. market — this year, after an absence of 17 years — hasn't made for upbeat reading. While Fiat-supervised overhauls of old Chrysler models have gone well for the most part and drawn American consumers back to Chrysler dealer showrooms, propelling Chrysler's robust increase in 2011 sales, Fiat hasn't fared nearly as well in wedging its peppy, miniature-sized 500 into the U.S. marketplace.
Fiat, meanwhile, is moving along, pushing the Arbath, its iconic 500 model that it revealed this week at the L.A. auto show (and on Jimmy Kimmel):