Mumbai: Aiming to sell just 100 units a year of Italy’s iconic Cinquecento car—renamed Fiat 500 in India—seems a small number butFiat Automobiles India Pvt. Ltd hopes the marquee brand will refurbish its image in the country and enable sales of more than 60,000 cars next year.
The three-door compact offering from the Italian car maker would be completely imported and retail at Rs14,82,500 in Delhi. Fiat is targeting to sell the car to high-income, style-oriented youth that includes celebrities and film actors.
The company intends to ride on the Fiat 500 to revive its brand image, which has suffered from inadequate sales and service support, and a product portfolio that has buckled under competitive pressures.
Betting big : The Fiat 500 at its launch at the British Airways London Eye in London in January. (Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)
Although Rajeev Kapoor, chief executive officer of Fiat India, has his task cut out, he says things are looking up already. In the quarter to June, Fiat sold 1,402 cars, against 1,105 in the same period last year.
“The launch of the 1.3 Palio with the multi-jet diesel engine, coupled with strengthening of our dealership network and sales and service support, has helped revive sales and regain people’s confidence in the Fiat brand,” Kapoor maintained.
“Introducing (Fiat) 500 in the Indian market is a brandbuilding exercise for people to see that Fiat can make beautiful cars,” he said. “Moreover, it would pave the way for launch of other cars.”
Fiat sells the Palio and Stile brands in India and plans to bring in its mid-sized sedan Linea in September, followed by the Grande Punto and Bravo early next year.
While it will import the Fiat 500 and the Bravo, the firm would launch the Linea and the Grande Punto with local content as high as 70%, and eventually localize it completely.
Fiat will make both these cars in its Ranjangaon factory near Pune. It expects to sell 65,000 cars by next year with its forthcoming launches.
“Brand positioning is a function of several factors and every little bit of effort helps in strengthening it. The fact that Fiat chose to introduce the new Fiat 500 in the Indian market within a year after its launch in Italy bespeaks of company’s confidence in the buying capability of people here,” said an analyst with Edelweiss Capital Ltd, who declined being named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Fiat India will sell the 500 through seven outlets in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Chandigarh. The dealerships are part of its dual dealership agreement with Tata Motors Ltd.
“The dealerships selling the Fiat 500 would conform to a standard theme, with a rest lounge and a play area for kids,” said a Delhi-based dealer who declined being named. He said that with no other car makers selling a three-door, sporty variant at this price, Fiat would get a first-mover’s advantage.
The dealerships would support after-sales service and spare requirements of the Fiat 500. Advertising agency Bates India Pvt. Ltd is assisting Fiat in marketing communications, which would be in line with the 500 launch elsewhere in the world, said a company spokesperson.
Fiat also plans to bring luxury models that include Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Lancia to India, said officials, but declined to specify dates.