News - Fiat
Fiat, Chrysler brands safe in Australia
500X supply issues stifle 2018 Fiat sales, but facelifted SUV to hit next year
4 Sep 2018
By TUNG NGUYEN
FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia remains committed to its namesake brands despite a significant 42.3 per cent sales downturn in the former, including Abarth, and the latter only offering the single 300 large sedan.
Speaking exclusively to GoAuto, FCA Australia president and chief executive Steve Zanlunghi staunchly stood behind the Italian brand saying he is “absolutely, 100 per cent” behind Fiat.
“The reason that the Fiat brand is down is, a big piece of it is because we had supply issues on the 500X,” he said.
“The whole first, probably four or five months of the year, we were out of 500Xs, and the only ones that we had were aged stock. Now we had some supply come in, and I'm sure you saw that we're launching … a refresh of the 500X here in the near future – so that should help as well.”
Year-to-date sales of the Fiat 500 and Abarth-fettled 595 are up 6.5 per cent to 472, while the 500X small SUV is significantly down 73.8 per cent to 154 units.
As for the remainder of the range, the Mazda MX-5-based Abarth 124 Spider is down 56.6 per cent to 96 sales, while the discontinued Panda hatchback has accrued one new registration in 2018.
Fiat’s facelifted 500X was revealed last week in Europe, sporting new-look head- and tail-lights, redesigned front and rear bumpers, updated powertrains, boosted safety equipment, and a reworked instrument cluster and steering wheel.
However, Mr Zanlunghi said Fiat’s go-fast Abarth brand had begun hitting its stride since an update in November when the company cut pricing by as much as $8000 on some 595 variants.
“When you look at where we’re at between the 500 and the Abarth 500, for the first time now ever over the last three months, we’ve seen the Abarth 500 now outsell the city car 500,” he said. “So it’s really starting to take hold here, the performance piece of it.
“Now it brings it (Abarth 595) down closer to the 500 and ... the performance in it is just amazing, so it’s worth, absolutely worth the step.”
As for expansion of the Fiat range, the Italian brand also sells a Mitsubishi Triton-based Fullback ute in some international markets, but Mr Zanlunghi shot down hopes of the pick-up contender touching down on local soil.
“We’ve got a partner that industrialise that vehicle for us,” he said. “And right now that contract does not cover Australia.
“But we do recognise that this is the third-largest ute market in the world, that one-tonne pick-up, and we are constantly doing studies of how we can get into that market and get a piece of it.”
As such, the first FCA group ute to be offered in Australia is expected to be Jeep’s Wrangler-based pick-up that is likely to materialise in production form next year.
With the Fiat Professional Scudo discontinued, Mr Zanlunghi would not be drawn on the likelihood of its replacement, the Renault Trafic-related Talento, being introduced in Australia, but sales of the Ducato large van have hit 640 units, a 6.3 per cent year-on-year increase, while the small Doblo is steady at 51 units.
Meanwhile, local Chrysler sales are up 1.3 per cent to 159 on the back of the sole 300 model offering.
Although rumours swirled that FCA would put the Chrysler brand out to pasture in the lead up to an investor meeting in early June, then chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne pledged to carry on with the American brand, focusing on its home market.
Mr Marchionne also revealed the Fiat brand would concentrate its efforts in Europe with new models including a fresh 500e electric hatch and wagon, as well as a hybrid 500X.
Mr Zanlunghi said: “The purpose of that meeting was to talk about our global brands.
“But by no means does that mean we’re pulling out, cancelling or pulling the plug. In fact, we just recently had some good market meetings with our dealers where I confirmed that the Chrysler brand and the Fiat brand aren’t going anywhere from Australia,” he said.
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