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Early love for Abarth 124 Spider

Popular pick: Despite strong initial interest in the Abarth 124 Spider, FCA Australia has ruled out offering the less powerful Fiat-badged version.

Strong initial sales for the Abarth 124 Spider helping improve brand awareness

9 Dec 2016

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia’s new chief says he is thrilled with the early response to its recently launched Abarth 124 Spider, which is lifting the awareness of the emerging brand Down Under.

The 124 Spider, which is based the ND Mazda MX-5 and built in Japan, launched in Australia in late October this year with just one variant on offer from $43,500 plus on-road costs (the auto is $45,500), attracting strong sales in just a few weeks on sale.

FCA Australia president and CEO Steve Zanlunghi told GoAuto that he was pleased with the initial consumer interest in the 124 Spider.

“Yes very happy, absolutely,” he said at a media event in Melbourne this week. “If you look at how we did versus the donor car, we were pretty excited about it. I think we end up about 18 sales short of the donor car first month out.” Despite only being available for less than two weeks in October, FCA Australia recorded 77 sales of the 124 Spider, just 20 units behind the MX-5 donor car, while in November, 54 Abarths found homes, compared with 103 for the MX-5.

GoAuto understands that the number one trade-in car for the Abarth 124 Spider in its first few weeks was the Mazda MX-5.

The MX-5 remains one of the most popular picks in its class with 1490 sales to the end of November, trailing the likes of the Toyota 86 (1937), BMW 2 Series (2033), Hyundai Veloster (2101) and Ford’s dominant Mustang (5594).

In fact, the MX-5 is having a record year and has already exceeded its previous best annual result with one month of sales to go.

Mr Zanlunghi said that while some consumers were unclear about the brand, the interest in the 124 Spider has helped boost awareness for Abarth in Australia.

“A lot (of people) still don’t know what it is. But it has got people asking the question now. We are seeing hits to the website going off the chart. We had the best Abarth month ever in October in Australia. And the second best in November. It is haloing the Abarth 500 version – the 595. The volumes aren’t massive but from where we were at and what we are looking at, it is just added business for us.” Mr Zanlunghi added that the interest in the sporty drop-top has been so significant that the car-maker has requested an increased production schedule.

“We have such high demand for it we flipped our production schedule with the UK. So we took their production out of Japan so we get it now as we are in the summer months and we are giving it back to them in our winter months, which is their summer. Just to fulfil demand because demand came in higher than expected. I have upped the volume production request by 50 per cent.” Mr Zanlunghi said some buyers may face a small wait for their Japanese-made rag-top.

“Right now there is a little bit of waiting list, depending on where you are at. We will try and alleviate that with the flip in production schedule with UK.” Despite sales shooting up for the Abarth brand, Mr Zanlunghi again ruled out introducing the less powerful Fiat-badged version of the 124 Spider.

“We specifically positioned that vehicle as being a performance vehicle and that’s what separates us here from MX-5. We have got the Bilstein shocks, Brembo brakes. The glass on the two vehicles is different. The glass on the Abarth is Mopar laminated glass to quieten noise in cabin. We’ve got the Monza exhaust.

“We positioned that as a performance vehicle and I think for foreseeable future that’s where we will continue to position it.”

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