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Fiat Punto heading back to Australia

words - Bruce Newton
Pricing for Fiat’s born-again Punto small car to drop below $18,000, while Freemont and 500 will also be sharply priced

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Fiat is expected to reintroduce the Punto small car to its Australian line-up in the first half of 2013 priced below $18,000.

Motoring.com.au understands that won’t be the only price shock Fiat will deliver under its new and aggressive Australian distribution arrangements, with an entry-level version of the 500 mini-car also expected to push significantly below the $20,000 barrier.

And the only officially confirmed addition to Fiat’s Australian range, the Freemont people-mover, is expected to start from around $27,000 when it goes on-sale in April.

This sharp pricing is indicative of the ambitious plan factory-owned distributor Fiat Chrysler Group Australia has for Fiat and Alfa Romeo, after taking them over last May from independent distributor Ateco Automotive.

It is understood FCGA believes it can grow Fiat sales toward 10,000 in the near term, that expansion aided by growing metro dealer numbers from 16 to 52 from February 1, 2013.

It is believed the Punto small car could be priced between $17,000 and $18,000 - well below the range Ateco set the car during its few years on sale here. An Abarth hot-hatch is also said to be likely.

Meanwhile, it is also expected that a 1.2-litre base-specification 500 mini will be brought onto the Australian market in early 2013 priced close to $18,000, undercutting the current TwinAir model by about $4000. However, the 500X 4x4 is not confirmed and the larger 500L appears to be off the radar for Australia.

The Panda mini is also yet to be confirmed for Australia, although the 4x4 revealed at the Paris motor show last week appears off the schedule.

Originally, it had been expected the Freemont would replace the Journey in Australia and the Dodge brand would be killed off here. But the plan now is for Dodge to carry on until at least at 2015, when the current-generation Journey is due to expire.

It is understood the Freemont and Journey will be differentiated on specification and price, with Fiat expected to kick off around $27,000 for a four-cylinder petrol-engined five-seater. A diesel engine and seven-seat option are also expected to be available.

The Journey currently retails for between $37,500 and $43,500 and is offered only with a 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar petrol engine and seven seats standard.

“The Fiat Freemont is a different car, it will come with completely different drivelines, completely different interior configuration. It’s got a slightly different electronic architecture and it will have dramatically different pricepoints,” said FCGA managing director Mr Clyde Campbell. “It will be cheaper than Journey.”

Mr Campbell said the decision to retain Journey and Dodge was driven by consistently solid sales.

“We sold 180 of them last month and we have never advertised the car, we have never incentivised the car. We brought it in at a very high spec level and we don’t know how well it can go. Right now at 180 sales per month it is not a bad piece of business.

“So we will keep it right through to the end of its current production life-cycle which goes through to the end of 2015 and it will carry the Dodge name.”

Mr Campbell said that the end of the Journey would not necessarily mean the end of the Dodge nameplate in Australia either: “We keep pestering them for everything they are producing.”

However, Mr Campbell was unprepared to confirm Punto or specifically discuss 500 pricing, although he did admit the Volkswagen Polo was a target. He also said the Alfa Romeo Giulietta would be lined up on price against the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda3.

“If we get Giulietta competitive I think it is a genuine alternative to those two products,” he said.

Mr Campbell explained FCGA had a different business model to Ateco that allowed lower entry-level pricing and meant chasing bigger sales volumes.

“To grow the business and reposition the product it’s not simply a process of slashing the prices,” he explained. “There are some variants that Ateco didn’t see the need to bring out, or didn’t have the same view on pricing and positioning that we have because they didn’t have the tenure that we have got.

“We are here for the long haul and we will introduce a price-led vehicle and we will introduce a couple of variants they didn’t have. Clearly they have to be volume drivers.”

 

 

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Published : Thursday, 4 October 2012


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