Fiat 500 at New York Auto Show.

Photo courtesy of the New York International Auto Show.

How will Chrysler save itself (and maybe even the auto industry)? With a tiny blue coupe tricked out with italian-leather seats, of course. 

If there was any doubt about how large a role Fiat will play in Chrysler’s restructuring, Chrysler vice chairman Jim Press silenced those questions by driving on stage in a cobalt blue Fiat 500 at the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday.  The point of Chrysler’s press conference was supposedly to announce the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, but Press took a few minutes to make his bravissimo arrival and wax poetic about the virtues of Fiat.

“Saving the environment and gas money never looked so good … and don’t you think this would be the perfect car to get around New York City?” said Press, playing to the New York audience. He also said that President Barack Obama was “happy” with Fiat’s role in Chrysler’s restructuring plan, which might be a small exaggeration of the Obama administration’s actual attitude toward the American automakers.

Press made no indication of when the Fiat 500 would be available in the United States, but he hinted that it might be included in Chrysler’s plan to launch eight new vehicles in the next 18 months.

Depending on the engine and transmission, the Fiat 500 gets between 37 and 56 mpg in Europe.