DETROIT -- Fiat Motors of North America, Inc. says it will give up for now on selling cars in the United States, but may return in the future.
A statement from the company Thursday confirmed earlier reports in a trade publication that Fiat would pull out of the U.S. market.
The press release said the two Italian coach-builders who design and assemble Fiats for export will now take over importing and distributing their products in the United States.
The two firms are Pininfarina, which designs and builds the Fiat Spider 2000 and Bertone, which makes the Fiat X-19. These are the only two Fiat models currently available in this country.
The Fiat statement said the company 'considers it instrumental for a better performance to adhere to Pininfarina's and Bertone's wish' to import and distribute their cars themselves.
A Fiat spokeswoman said the decision is not necessarily a permanent pullout.
'I can't say anything about the future. Fiat in Italy makes many models and may decide to bring some over in the future,' said spokeswoman Marcia Kazarian.
The Fiats currently on sale are 1982 models. The decision on importing 1983s will be left up to Pininfarina and Bertone, Ms. Kazarian said.
Fiat will continue to operate technical, warranty and service departments in their present locations and will import and sell spare parts and accessories. An office will be maintained in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.
Fiat is offering rebates of up to $2,000 to clear out an inventory of about 5,000 1982 models still on dealers' lots across the country.
Fiat's best sales year in the United States was 1975, when it sold 110,511. The company's sales shrank to 14,113 in 1981, the lowest total in 15 years, and its December sales were a miniscule 573.
Automotive News, an industry trade publication, earlier this week reported the two Fiat models still for sale would be distributed by a new company headed by Malcolm Bricklin.
They would be marketed as the Pininfarina 2000 and Bertone X-19.
Bricklin is best known for his gull-winged sports car that was manufactured in New Brunswick, Canada. About 2,900 of the cars, which have become collector's items, were produced before the car company went out of business in 1975.