Two automaker bankruptcies and a massive downturn in sales have conspired to wipe out hundreds of auto dealerships, and Chrysler retailers have been especially hard hit, as the stores who haven't been forced to close are faced with an aging product lineup and very little foot traffic.

That isn't stopping 400 of Team Pentastar's best remaining dealers from looking into expanding their empires with a Fiat dealership. The Detroit News reports dealers flying into Detroit Sunday morning to watch a sales pitch by Fiat executives with the goal of getting 200 of those dealers to start a stand-alone Fiat store. The dealers will see future Fiat products, as well as speeches from Laura Soave, who heads branding for Fiat in North America, and Chrysler fleet and network boss Peter Grady.

Dealers are waiting on franchise agreement and financial obligation details before committing to Fiat, but interest in one of the 200 retail outlets isn't enough to get approved. Fiat will award franchises based on their current sales performance, but those dealers must also have a stand-alone store with dedicated staffing and an established marketing plan. Those dealers will have only the Fiat 500 to sell for a good long while, but Fiat and Alfa Romeo plan to sell an array of sedans, hatchbacks, crossovers and even a roadster by 2012 – supposedly. Dealers have until September 22 to apply for a dealership, after which Fiat will award the dealerships in October.

[Source: Detroit News | Image: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images]

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