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Fiat rolls back into Maryland

After an absence of more than two decades, the Fiat nameplate will soon be seen again in Maryland.

Four of the state’s Chrysler dealers were among the first round of dealerships awarded Fiat franchises on Wednesday. Fiat SpA, which runs Chrysler Group LLC, wants to have Fiat dealers in 119 markets picked for a high concentration of smaller car registrations.

In Maryland, the company had said in August it was eying the Baltimore, Frederick and D.C. markets. The Maryland dealerships are: Criswell Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Gaithersburg; Tate Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Glen Burnie; Tate Frederick Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Frederick and Heritage Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Owings Mills.

Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel said the dealers had plans already in place and would be ready soon to take orders for the Fiat 500, which will be the only car sold at first through the new network.

“With this first group, these are the ones who had great proposals and were ready to go,” Kisiel said. “They’ll be ready to go later this year when the order banks start opening up for the Fiat 500.”

The Fiat 500 is a retro take on the company’s original 500 model and will be the first Fiat model for sale in the U.S. The 500 will be fully unveiled in November during the Los Angeles Auto Show and will be ready for North American sales by the end of the year. The car will be built in Toluca, Mexico, except for the 1.4-liter engine, which will be manufactured in the U.S.

Fiat had sold cars in the U.S. until 1983, when it pulled out of the market. One condition dealers had to agree to, to carry the Fiat brand, was building a separate showroom for the 500 model, with an eventual stand-alone facility for the whole brand.

Non-Chrysler dealers had also submitted proposals, and Chrysler said those proposals were also under consideration. Chrysler Group said it would keep working with all the dealers and would name additional Fiat dealers by the end of the year.

Chrysler and Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said previously that Alfa Romeos may be also sold in the same showrooms as Fiats. Fiat in April said its five-year business plan calls for three new Alfa Romeo vehicles to go on sale in North America in 2012 — the Giulia sedan and sports wagon and a sport-utility vehicle.