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Fiat to expand line-up

Maybe baby: The Aegea small sedan is a chance for the Australian market, if Fiat builds it in right-hand drive.

More new models on the horizon for Fiat beyond 500X and 124 Spider

Fiat logo9 Dec 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia says there is plenty of room for more models in its shrinking line-up, as the company attempts to reposition Fiat away from the lower end of the market.

In its latest incarnation in Australia, Fiat has offered small cars such as the 500, Panda and Punto, the latter of which was positioned as a cheap European alternative to light cars including the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2, while its Freemont MPV/crossover was priced to undercut rivals.

Under the stewardship of FCA Group chief marketing officer and head of Fiat brand, Olivier Francois, the Italian marque will be pitched as 'aspirational and functional', without moving into the premium space that sister brand Alfa Romeo occupies.

FCA Australia director of marketing and product strategy, Zac Loo, told GoAuto that Fiat was a known quantity in this market, but that it needed a kick-start to get it back on buyer's shopping lists.

“The challenge is, we know the awareness is there,” he said at the 500X crossover launch. “There is a love affair with the Fiat brand as it has been around for a long time. The issue for us is re-energising the brand today.”

Mr Loo said FCA Australia would utilise some of the humorous viral videos that Fiat has produced for the United States market to promote the brand here, and highlighted the success of the 500 city car.

“We think if we can leverage some of the (global marketing) campaigns and it's also about finding local messaging that really resonates, so it is just finding a combination that sticks,” he said. “We have had some things that have worked really well, like the 500, which has really cut through.”

In September this year, Fiat dumped the Panda and Punto from its line-up after two years of poor sales, leaving just the 500 and the Dodge Journey-based Freemont as its only offerings until the arrival earlier this month of the 500X crossover. It also sells a trio of light-commercial models under its Fiat Professional banner.

Mr Loo said there was room for more models in the Australian line-up, and suggested the company would select the most appropriate vehicles on offer from Fiat's global portfolio.

“I think the 500 nameplate works really well, so that’s why we see X as a really good opportunity,” said Mr Loo. “But I think there is definitely opportunity to broaden the Fiat portfolio.

“We have a really good grasp of what we think would work, so we are now looking at those opportunities from the global portfolio to bring those in. We are looking for the best fit for the market, as opposed to necessarily what is available.”

Beyond the already-confirmed 124 Spider drop-top that is set to launch late in 2016, other possibilities from the global portfolio include the Aegea small sedan, the forthcoming Tipo hatch that is set to take on the Volkswagen Golf in other markets, and the Mitsubishi Triton-based Fullback pick-up.

The local importers ruled out the utility last month, while a spokesperson told GoAuto in May that the Aegea would be on the agenda if it gets right-hand production.

Mr Loo declined to detail what models the car-maker was keen on for the Australian market, but said the 124 Spider and the 500X would help renew the brand.

“We are definitely looking to grow (the line-up),” he said. “We look at this as a fresh start again with 500X. Obviously we have 124 Spider coming later next year and then beyond that there is a number of opportunities out there and what they shape up to be is still sort of malleable, but there is no reason we have to stop at any particular amount.

“Really, we will bring as much in that resonates with Australians as resonates for us. There is nothing that stops us from growing.”

The 500L – an MPV-style hatch with styling inspired by the 500 hatch but built on the same platform as the Punto and Alfa Romeo MiTo – has previously been ruled out for Australia.

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