The Fiat 500, absent from the United States automotive scene for 28 years, is being regenerated for today’s fuel-conscious market. The economy car is coming into what the company considers a prime market with some serious challenges.

Fiat had planned to open 130 franchises in the United States, but only 33 have actually been completed. Laura Soave of North America’s Fiat brand expects most of the franchise to be open by September.

The Fiat 500 gets 38 miles to the gallon on the highway, just a little lower than the sweet spot of 40 mpg desired by many with small cars. Soave stated that the car offers an overall package that blends fuel economy with style and design without compromising handling, safety, or dynamics.

Fiat has plans for an entire family of the pint-sized Italian cars. Fiat plans to release the Cabrio, a convertible, in June followed by a performance model called Abarth. By the end of 2012, Fiat plans to release an electric version of the 500, and in 2013 Fiat will introduce a line of 4 door sub-compact cars from a new platform.

The Fiat 500 starts at $15,550. Consumers can choose from 14 colors for both the exterior and the interior. Fiat will also allow consumers to choose material combinations for a more customized feel. While the price is a little higher than larger sub-compact cars, Fiat says that the 500 series offers Italian fashion and style to consumers, not just fuel efficiency.