CENTER LINE, MI – Mopar, Chrysler’s in-house parts supplier that has been an American staple for 75 years, will be put to the test with a soon-to-be-launched Fiat vehicle in Europe.

The Fiat Panda 4x4 small cross/utility vehicle, unveiled in late September at the Paris auto show, features Mopar parts and accessories, a first for the Fiat-Chrysler partnership.

“2012 is the year that everything is happening,” Mopar President and CEO Pietro Gorlier tells WardsAuto during a media backgrounder at the parts operation’s technical center here. “The level of synergy that we are achieving is amazing.”

Mopar has made steady inroads into Europe since Fiat acquired Chrysler in 2009, as well as continued progress toward globalization. On the service level, diagnostic tools and other parts information have been harmonized across all Fiat and Chrysler brands.

“It was not very glamorous,” Gorlier says of the process. “But it was really important for our success.”

North American sales of Mopar original-equipment parts and accessories are up, he says. Declining to give specific numbers, Gorlier says only that sales of accessories, which comprise 10% to 15% of all North American business, have doubled since 2009.

“It’s all about the retention. The more we retain the customer, the more we will be able to penetrate the aftermarket.”

At the Specialty Equipment Marketers Assn. exposition opening this month in Las Vegas, Chrysler will showcase at least one customized product from each of its American-sold brands.

The list includes a Dodge Charger with a V-10 engine; a “Sand Trooper” Jeep Wrangler made for off-road performance; the SRT Viper hitting showrooms next year; and a “Half & Half” Jeep Grand Cherokee, with a portion of the SUV decked out with Mopar accessories.

Also on the show stand will be a “Beach Cruiser” Fiat 500 with a 1960s surf-movie look; “Urban” Ram 1500 with a 392-hp Hemi engine; “Luxury” Chrysler 300; and Dodge Dart Carbon Fire, adorned with carbon-fiber treatments.

Mopar will feature matte-finish paint, a growing trend in the automotive industry, on most of its display models, as well as portable Wi-Fi hotspots, off-road camper trailers and the parts maker’s “WiTECH” that supports vehicle diagnosis and software updates from a driver’s personal computer.

Building upon WiTECH, Gorlier says Chrysler is the first auto maker to allow drivers to register their vehicles in an online database for up-to-date information on service and labor, as well as downloadable owner’s manuals.

Meanwhile, Mopar continues to push for Sunday service hours at U.S. dealerships, a common practice in Europe.

About 80% of dealers offer Saturday service, Gorlier says. Legal hurdles in some states, full dealer cooperation and a shortage of technical manpower are blocking further expansion of service hours.

But not long ago, few dealers offered any weekend service, and Mopar is satisfied with the progress it has made in expanding hours so far.

“We’re pleased, but we stay very humble,” Gorlier says. “It’s not something that can be done overnight.”

afoley@wardsauto.com