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Doblo’s missing petrol auto ‘no problem’: Fiat

Manual labour: Petrol-powered versions of the Fiat Doblo light van will be manual-only options, for the time being.

Fiat Professional’ Doblo limited to automated manual gearbox in the diesel for now

5 Dec 2014

FIAT Professional says the lack of petrol automatic availability in the Doblo light van is not issue, with research revealing that price-sensitive buyers in the segment prefer a manual transmission.

Speaking with GoAuto at the launch of the Doblo in Melbourne this month, Fiat Professional director of marketing Bob Graczyk said he expects the $22,000, plus on-roads base manual version to be the most popular of the range.

“I expect the 1.4 manual to be the strongest seller,” he said.

“We do offer an automatic transmission with the Doblo diesel, and based on our research, that makes it an interesting option for buyers.”

However, with Renault’s refreshed Kangoo doubling its sales year-on-year with a strong showing from the base petrol automatic version, Fiat Professional admits that it would put its hand up for one should the same type of drivetrain suddenly become available.

“If one becomes available we’ll certainly look at it,” Mr Grazer said.

With the segment best-seller, the Volkswagen Caddy, also not offering a base auto petrol variant, the Kangoo has long made hay in that department, Renault has told GoAuto in the past.

The French light van in 1.6-litre four-speed automatic guise retails for $22,990, plus on-roads, compared to $30,350 for the Caddy TDI250 1.6-litre turbo-diesel with a DSG dual-clutch transmission.

And while the least expensive Doblo auto costs less than its German rival at $29,000 plus on-road costs, that is for an automated clutchless manual gearbox rather than a torque converter or dual-clutch auto.

The Fiat’s lack of auto availability stems from a decision made years ago not to offer a petrol auto version of the existing series internationally.

But the extensively facelifted Doblo that was unveiled at the Hanover IAA commercial vehicle expo in Germany in late September may rectify that when it arrives in Australia during 2016, following a European roll-out in the second quarter of next year.

“If the demand is large enough from buyers and the market is big enough, Fiat will probably build one for us,” revealed Fiat Professional product director Zac Loo.

“But manual transmission is the predominant choice in this market. Most of the buyer base consists of small to medium-sized businesses. If they want an auto the diesel is there for them.”

Interestingly, the 2015 Doblo facelift is the Fiat version of the Ram Promaster City, announced back in May, only with mildly tweaked exterior and interior components.

But while the revised Doblo will introduce low-emission downsized engines to help comply with increasingly stringent anti-pollution legislation, the American-market Ram headlines a variation of the Jeep Cherokee’s 2.4-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol Tigershark engine, delivering a sturdy 130kW of power and 231Nm of torque to the front wheels via a nine-speed full automatic transmission.

However, one Fiat Professional spokesperson confirmed that there are no plans for now to offer this combination in right-hand drive configuration, due to extremely limited take-up potential outside of Australia combined with the high cost of re-engineering the vehicle to suit.

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