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FCA hurt by currency, product

Tipping point: Fiat is looking to expand its line-up in Australia, but the Tipo small hatch is unlikely to be offered here.

No Freemont replacement but passenger car boost in sight for Fiat

6 May 2016

FIAT range expansion plans in Australia are being affected by the lack of a suitable Freemont crossover MPV replacement and continued currency fluctuations, a senior executive from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has told GoAuto.

The lack of a replacement for the Fiat Freemont will leave the brand with only the 500 micro hatchback and 500X small-SUV offerings in its passenger-car line-up. It also sells the Ducato, Scudo and Doblo vans as part of its Fiat Professional arm.

Speaking at the national media launch of the Abarth 595 in Hobart, Tasmania, FCA Australia senior manager of product planning and strategy Alan Swanson said that there are several issues that have affected the brand’s forward planning, however the company maintained it wanted to expand the Fiat range.

“We’re continuously looking at potential products and we’re always having a look and talking to the different regions that may be offering something different to us,” Mr Swanson said.

“I wouldn’t say we’re focused on what we’ve currently got (however) we have been through in the last year to year-and-a-half a currency swing, so that also affects planning of products so when there’s stability there it makes things easier.

“Everything has to of course be a business case that works for the company, so all of these things have to be assessed for forward planning.”

Mr Swanson said the Tipo small hatchback – revealed at this year's Geneva motor show – and the Toro small pick-up built for overseas markets were “not specifically” being discussed as a potential import opportunity. He added that time was required to see when declining passenger car sales “stabilise” in the local market.

“There’s still quite large shifts going on in the Australian car market, it’s always been strong in the SUV-based point of view, but now we’ve seen smaller SUV segments become very popular where two or three years ago there were no products there,” he said.

“As far as the traditional passenger-car segment, that’s one we have to keep an eye on as to when things are going to stabilise there because there has been a large swing away from the traditional passenger car towards the SUV at the moment.

“The shift is quite quick (and) the key ones (segments) where the growth is is obviously the small and medium SUV.”

When asked if there is a vehicle to replace the Dodge Journey-based Fiat Freemont crossover in the short or medium term, however, Mr Swanson replied, “No there isn’t”.

“There isn’t anything planned to replace Freemont (and) there isn’t anything singularly at the moment we’re focusing on and working towards bringing here, but there are discussions all the time about lots of different concepts.”

GoAuto understands the five-year-old Freemont, which is based on the Dodge Journey that launched in 2008, has had its life cycle further extended due to its success and will continue to be offered locally this year and potentially next year.

Freemont sales are down 65.7 per cent year-to-date to April compared with the same period in 2015, a year when sales fell 18.4 per cent to 1273 units compared with full-year 2014.

The Dodge Journey has dropped by 54.6 per cent year to date compared with last year with 191 units shifted, after losing 23.5 per cent of its sales at the end of last year, grabbing 1184 sales in 2015.

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