After fleeing in 1979, Fiat has struggled to regain a foothold in the US market with the tiny 500 that it launched at the Los Angeles show two years ago but things are definitely looking up, global marketing chief Olivier Francois claimed.

A slow start, which saw just 20,000 sales of the Mexican-built 500 in the first year, was attributed to an insufficiently developed dealer network but things have shaken out.

Francois said: "In the first six months of this year we passed the 20,000 figure and we are already past 30,000 for 2012. We wondered when we launched whether the US was ready for such a small car and we are now discovering that America is more than ready.

"Our sales are running 130% ahead of last year and we have created monthly records in six separate months."

Sales have been boosted by the introduction of Abarth models and, at this year's show, Francois introduced the Abarth Cabrio, the electric 500e and the longer wheelbase 500L.

There have also been other sales boosters, he said. Beefing up the sound system in the cars was one as was a series of highly imaginative and amusing television ads.

Francois added: "When we introduced Abarth earlier this year it sold out within a couple of months and the ad we did for the car went viral. I am sure the new models, and the new ads will be equally appealing.

"We are well on the way to [re-]establishing Fiat in the US market."

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more