Fiat has just unveiled the Viaggio sedan at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition – its first car made with a local Chinese partner.
Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, who also runs Chrysler Group LLC, needs Chinese growth to counter losses in Europe and reduce dependence on the U.S. andBrazil for profit.
Fiat-Chrysler lags far behind competitors in China, selling a combined 35,000 cars in the country last year, according to IHS data. The Italian brand delivered just 991 vehicles in China in 2011.
But this is about to change according to Marchionne.
The executive plans to sell 300,000 vehicles in 2014 in China.
“It’s going to be hard for Marchionne to catch up with rivals in China as Fiat is arriving late when major players have already established brand equity and gained market share,” said Giuliano Noci, vice rector for the China campus of the Milan Polytechnic.
Last month, Marchionne said he is search for a third partner after merging with Chrysler Group LLC to help reduce development costs and boost sales in fast- growing countries.
“We are continuing to look at new opportunities for cooperation both with existing partners and with potential new partners, but we have nothing to add on this.”
“Teaming with either Suzuki Motor Corp. (7269) or Mazda Motor Corp. (7261) makes sense.”
The new Viaggio
The Viaggio will start production in July in the new GAC-Fiat factory in Changsha, and will go on sale in China in the third quarter of this year.
The cars will be produced from a plant with installed capacity of 170,000 units per annum. This is planned for the first phase as stated by company sources. Based on its abilities to reach this figure, the company will be increasing capacities to more than 300,000 units per annum.
The move is important for Fiat, which also controls U.S. auto maker Chrysler, because both companies have been latecomers to the booming Chinese car market.
Essentially a rebadged version of the Dodge Dart, the Viaggio rides on the CUSW (Compact US Wide) platform and features modified bumpers, a revised grille and unique lighting units.