Bloomberg is reporting that Laura Soave, the head of the Fiat brand in North America, is leaving the company. The executive helped usher Fiat back into the U.S. market with the 500, but flagging sales, slow dealer network expansion and marketing disasters have fallen on Soave's shoulders, as have rumors of improper professional relationships. Rumors of her ousting/departure have been swirling for some time, making the announcement of little surprise.
Fiat has managed to move less than half of the 50,000 units per year that the company had projected for the 500 in 2011.

Soave will be replaced by Tim Kuniskis, a marketing executive within Fiat, according to the report.

UPDATE: It's official. Chrysler has released a statement confirming Soave's exit and Kuniskis' ascendance. Check out the release after the jump.

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Chrysler Group Appoints Timothy Kuniskis Head of Fiat Brand for North America

November 21, 2011 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - Chrysler Group LLC today named Timothy Kuniskis Head of the Fiat Brand for North America. Kuniskis most recently served as Director for both the Chrysler Brand and Fiat Brand Product Marketing. The move is effective immediately.

In his new role, Kuniskis is responsible for the Fiat Brand in North America which includes leadership for Fiat Brand sales, marketing, dealer network and service. He will continue the reintroduction of the iconic brand including its newest vehicle the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth.

"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," said Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO, Chrysler Group LLC. "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 begin the Fiat Brand's next chapter."

Kuniskis joined Chrysler in 1992 and since then has held a series of increasingly responsible positions in the Company's business center operations and marketing organization.

Laura Soave has left the Company and will pursue other interests


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  • 51 Comments
      50 AKA Ferrari
      • 3 Years Ago
      The smearing of her "improper relationship" is retarded. Lets keep it real. Bad marketing and pricing PERIOD. Should that fall on her shoulders...ultimately YES. J.Lo as a spokeswoman was just a dumb move. She has too much negative press to be credible. It's a shame really. Just makes future Fiat cars that enter the market that much more difficult to obtain sales.
        throwback
        • 3 Years Ago
        @50 AKA Ferrari
        I would add that the sales expectations for this car were way overblown. Just like the Smart, there is an initial demand. Once the must haves get their cars, the 500 has to compete in a very competitive market against cars like the Fiesta, Fit, Versa etc.
        Zoom
        • 3 Years Ago
        @50 AKA Ferrari
        Negative press? Like what, a divorce? Gee. What shame.
          recharged95
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Zoom
          Stuff like her, the AMA, and ABC selling out with last night's AMA awards show.... that was just bad taste when they're promoting the independent artist. Heck I'll throw in Taylor Swift too... all sell outs!
      Xedicon
      • 3 Years Ago
      The rollout of availability for this sweet little car reminds me of glacial movement. If sales are the real reason she got the boot, that's shameful. She was TOTALLY let down by the dealer network, heck it's still a little on the thin side. My own Mom is a good example - she wanted one right when they came out, but no dealers near her for a good while had any. she ALMOST bought something else because of that alone, but at the last second a semi close dealer finally had them available. I'm not saying 50k would've sold, but certainly more than the 21,380. Even if the "improper relationship" is true, she still got screwed. OH SNAP I just saw my own pun! (honestly I saw it after the fact, but I can't resist leaving it in)
        neonrt
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Xedicon
        As the head of the division she is responsible for the dealer network fiasco. I think that is probably the main reason she is out.
      turr520
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm guessing the "improper professional relationships" might be referring to the fact that she hired "Impatto, a small Southfield, Michigan-based advertising firm that previously employed her", for Fiat. Nothing to do with her gender.
      P
      • 3 Years Ago
      One of the worst-led vehicle launches in a generation. She neglected to understand her market, instead putting her own taste and desire for boondoggles before the needs of the brand. J-Lo? Gucci? Fashion events? Botched distribution? Hiring an unknown agency that employed her? It's amazing she got as far as she did.
        Mike Pulsifer
        • 3 Years Ago
        @P
        The Gucci edition existed in Europe before it came here. You know that place on the maps they didn't teach you about in public school?
        Dane Grant
        • 3 Years Ago
        @P
        You took the words right out my mouth....
      kevsflanagan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Am I the only one that when JLo's ad comes on thinks it for a childrens charity for inner city youth's? The brand has been plagued by bad ad choice's and yes horrible dealer roll out, which to be fair is ultimately the responsibility of this woman. Hopefully whomeva steps up corrects these problems and gets the ball rolling.
      • 3 Years Ago
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        Bucks
        • 3 Years Ago
        Agreed, best looking CEO i've seen in a while! (Or ever?) .. Gorgeous :)
      Hazdaz
      • 3 Years Ago
      That didn't take long... and the recycling of executives continues. I called this when they announced their ridiculous sales projections just a few months ago. The problem is that the next clueless executive that they get in there is going to basically do the same thing as Soave - namely over-promise and under-deliver. They are going to keep on going through people until the sh!t hits the fan and upper management realizes that something is wrong with their marketing, they need more than just one model, or their projections were woefully out of line to being with. The 500 is a great little car, but I was saying back in January that they weren't going to sell 50k of them what with most of their dealership network still not even built yet, as well as their nearly absent advertising campaign. And then when they do get an ad campaign going, its with J-Lo of all people! Good lord!
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
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          Hazdaz
          • 3 Years Ago
          Where are you getting your info?? The base model, which has a decent amount of standard features, starts at $15,500. The Sport version is $17,500, and the Lounge is $19,500. You can easily get a 500 for WAY under $20k. There is the over-priced GUCCI edition, but I'm not even going to do there.
        monobloc_6piston
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Yea I agree with you about the 50k being a totally unfeasible number, but I don't agree with you, on not using J.Lo because you might not understand the market demographics. Based on who they chose, I'd say they're aiming this car at: young women and ethnically/racially diverse demographic (or in marketing terms, "urban youth").
          Hazdaz
          • 3 Years Ago
          @monobloc_6piston
          No one gives a rat's ass about J.Lo and what car she is being paid to sponsor. That's a terrible, terrible fit - someone that would normally not be caught dead in a car like the 500, should never have been picked as the spokesmodel for it. Its like hiring Top Cruise (or some other snooty actor) to pitch Ford Fiestas... no one is going to buy the premise that he'd actually drive one which defeats the whole point of having a spokeperson.
      Mr. Z
      • 3 Years Ago
      I cannot think of a worse initial advertising campaign
      Colin
      • 3 Years Ago
      Fiat group marketing in Britain is poor too. We get infinite special editions, which means bits of trim and graphics, and yet the real design glitches, like - in the UK - poor pedal placement on many models, remain. Combine this with endless promises of new models that never arrive and too ambitious pricing and the result is that Fiat is now becoming uncompetitive. It doesn't help that over the past few years Fiat's resources have been dedicated to the US, while Europe has had to make do with tired models. Unlike the Koreans and the Japanese Fiat refuses to acknowledge any criticism of its cars and this is a shame because actually the product is good, and would be great with only a few relatively minor adjustments. The US 500 is great, but the product has been holed below the water by horrendous advertising and a pretentious sales technique that is just plain stupid. In the UK we also have, for no sensible reason, dedicated dealers, for Abarths in our case, which means that most of the population simply cannot buy one: madness!
      Peter
      • 3 Years Ago
      This was coming. You'd have to be blind not to see it. The roll-out was ill-timed, overly-optomistic in today's sick economy, poorly executed and fraught with a has-been "A" lister representing the car. Great car badly done in by ineptitude...it will take some serious effort to turn it around but I'd still like an Abarth. And use that new model in all the ads!
      Sukairain
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Fiat Falling Flat" This just in - "Laura is being replaced by an aged singer actress and former judge of American Idol.........."
      Bruce Reeves
      • 3 Years Ago
      She is at least hot (if you like Hispanic chicks) That's maybe why she was hired? And now she's left the 500 in a mess and another nail in the small cars don't work in America program. Damn you Laura!
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