comscore Fiat's U.S. return includes isle showroom | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Fiat’s U.S. return includes isle showroom

  • Cindy Ellen Russell / Marc Cutter poses with one of the new Fiat 500s available at his Cutter Fiat of Honolulu dealership.

  • Automaker Fiat has selected 130 dealerships in the U.S. to sell its cars, including a Cutter Fiat Hawaii location that recently opened.

The Cutter Fiat Hawaii dealership that recently opened at 914 Ala Moana Blvd. sold two FIAT 500 models before the showroom was officially completed. A grand opening event is being planned for the coming months.

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Fiat owns 30 percent of Detroit-based Chrysler Group LLC

FIAT dealerships

Fiat is returning to the U.S. market, which it left in 1984.

In Fiat’s earlier U.S. run, "everyone that had one, loved it," said dealership owner Marc Cutter, brother of well-known auto dealer Nick Cutter and son of automotive family patriarch Gerald Cutter.

The Fiat acronym was taken from its 1899 Palazzo Bricharasio-forged company charter titled "Societa Anonima Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino." In its darker days, Fiat came to be denigratingly translated as "Fix It Again, Tony."

Now among the world’s top 10 automakers, Fiat announced its North American return in recent years along with its investment in Detroit big-three automaker Chrysler Group LLC.

Fiat has selected 130 dealers in the U.S. to sell the cars.

"They offered it only to metro market dealers," though additional dealerships are likely in the future, Cutter said.

The dealership received its first showroom-filling shipment of more than two dozen Fiat 500 models last week.

The iconic 500, called the Cinquecento in Italian, comes in three versions — the Pop, from $15,500; the Sport, from $17,500; and the Lounge, from $19,500 (manufacturer’s suggested retail price). "That’s the only model for the first year," Cutter said, but Fiat makes many more models that will eventually be rolling on U.S. roads.

What’s more, when the Alfa Romeo brand returns to the U.S. market, "they’re giving that to their Fiat dealers," Cutter said.

Cutter Fiat Hawaii employs "a couple salespeople," a manager, a finance manager and a "dedicated Fiat technician," at the dealership that shares parts and service space with the adjacent Cutter Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Honolulu dealership, Cutter said.

Manufacturers foist many demands and restrictions on their dealers, but due to Hawaii’s limited and expensive real estate, Fiat is allowing Cutter to share the parts and service space of the neighboring family-owned business "as long as we have a separate showroom," Cutter said.

That the dealership name starts with the Cutter family name instead of Fiat is noteworthy.

"In most markets, they’re not allowing dealers to do that," he said.

Most of Fiat’s new U.S. dealerships were required to follow the "Fiat of (market)" naming convention, but an exception was made here as the Cutter name has been synonymous with auto sales in Hawaii for decades.

Dealership businesses are commonly multigenerational family businesses, and as such, Marc Cutter grew up in the business.

For about the last 30 years, he said, "I’ve been in my family business and out on my own, I’ve been partners with a brother on the mainland, and now I’m back in Hawaii and now out on my own again," he said.

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