Fiat announces future expansion plans for India

After what seems to be eternity, the Italian car-maker Fiat that is struggling with falling sales, a limited model range and an under-fire after-sales network, finally announced its expansion plans for the Indian market. Though it has come a little too late, fans and owners of Fiat cars would be heaving a big sigh of relief now, as it was getting amply clear that the present volumes are unsustainable to operate a manufacturing plant in India. We at Anything On Wheels have been open in our love towards Fiat and, in fact, wrote as early as 2010 that Fiat needs to do something, really quick. It then is a sin on Fiat's part that their expansion plans are coming two years down the line. Better late than never, anyway.

It's all going to start with a face-lift of the Grande Punto and Linea in 2013. Though the Linea facelift made its global debut very recently, the Punto Evo, as it is called internationally, has been on sale since 2010. With significantly redesigned exteriors and interiors, the face-lifted Punto and Linea should be able to stage a comeback in the sales charts. Moreover, Fiat has also confirmed the launch of the next generation Punto and Linea in 2014, the latter of which will have the much-awaited 1.6-liter Multijet diesel engine under its hood. The existing Linea isn't going to be discontinued and will continue to be sold alongside the new model as the Linea Classic. Rejoice Punto and Linea owners, your cars are here to stay!

That's not all. An all-new B-segment Compact Utility Vehicle is also planned for launch in 2014. This model, that will share its underpinnings with one of Chrysler's models as well, is expected to be sold worldwide, including North America and Europe. Most of our media friends have already speculated this to be the 500XL, an extended seven-seat version of the 500L shown above. We will reserve our thoughts until Fiat makes it official though.

And we have saved the best for last. As if to answer our post on the non-availability of hot hatchbacks in our market, Fiat has decided to introduce its popular performance brand “Abarth” in India. Come mid-2013, we will be able to see stunning cars like the Punto Evo Abarth and 500 Abarth scorching our roads. Abarth is already popular in India and it is not uncommon to see Fiat cars prepped up with Abarth vinyls to get that 'hot' look. The news of its official entry is only going to make fans happier. Being a CBU import, duties and taxes will ensure that only hardcore enthusiasts with deep pockets would be able to own one. More than the volumes though, Abarth is sure to improve Fiat’s shattered brand image in India.

If all these plans come to fruition, not all of Fiat's problems are solved. They still need people to sell and service their cars. Fiat's earlier decision to partner with Tata Motors for sales and service backfired and it did Fiat more harm than good. Realizing the blunder, Fiat snapped ties with Tata and announced that it will be opening new stand-alone dealerships across the country. To start with, 'Fiat Caffe', a hi-fi brand store that aims to show customers the Italian way of life, have been launched in Delhi and Pune this year. With plans to open many such stores and stand-alone dealerships across India, Fiat hopes to improve its brand image and consequently, increase sales. Here is wishing them well in their endeavor!

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