* VW marketing exec to oversee Fiat 500 launch
* Fiat's small cars crucial for Chrysler turnaround
DETROIT, March 10 Chrysler hired a Volkswagen
(VOWG_p.DE) executive to lead the reintroduction of its Fiat
brand in North America -- a brand that represents the core of
the automaker's efforts to bring out fuel-efficient small
Laura Soave will oversee the North American debut of the
Fiat 500 small car in late 2010 and hold responsibility for the
overall Fiat product portfolio in the region, Chrysler said on
Laura Soave is joining from Volkswagen America where she
most recently served as a marketing executive. She will hold
full profit and loss responsibility for the Fiat brand in North
America and report to Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of
Chrysler and Fiat SpA FIA.MI.
"Her rich background will serve as a springboard for
reintroducing the Fiat brand when it takes to U.S. and Canadian
roads this December after more than a 25-year absence,"
Marchionne said in a statement.
Chrysler, which emerged from bankruptcy in June under
management control of Fiat, is counting on a new generation of
small cars from Fiat including the 500 small car to revive its
aging vehicle lineup dominated by big trucks and SUVs.
The Obama administration gave Fiat a 20 percent stake in
Chrysler in exchange for bringing smaller vehicles and more
fuel-efficient engines to the No. 3 U.S. automaker.
Chrysler's U.S. sales held flat in February from a year
earlier, the first time since December 2007 that its U.S.
monthly sales did not decline from the same month the previous
(Reporting by Soyoung Kim; editing by Carol Bishopric)