Contrary to what happened during the last 5 years, when Fiat brand barely presented one all-new car per year, in 2015 the company has revealed 3 all-new nameplates. The Tipo sedan, the 124 Spider and the Fullback pickup are expected to enlarge the Fiat EMEA’s current range shortly. Three totally different cars that arrive at a time when the European division starts to be profitable again and heads to its first full year breakeven point after years burning money. In fact last month FCA posted a sales growth of 19% in the European 5 major countries. The increase was driven by the sales in the Italian market (+26%) and by Fiat (+21%) and Jeep brand (+57%). It seems that things are working again for the group in Europe despite the fact the marginal market share FCA has outside Italy. Are the new Tipo, 124 Spider and Fullback going to help to improve this? I doubt it.
The Tipo was conceived to replace the success of the Fiat Linea in Turkey. The difference this time is that there will be other body-types besides the sedan. The brand will show the Tipo hatchback and the Tipo SW at Geneva motor show in March 2016, but so far the only Tipo available will be the sedan, on sale not only in Turkey but in Western Europe as well. The main attribute of this new compact family will be the price as already seen with the current offers for the Tipo sedan, with prices starting at 12.500 euro. Excluding the negative effects a compact car like this will have on the Punto, the Tipo sedan won’t bring big changes to Fiat in Europe. The main reason for this is the lack of interest for this kind of cars in the big markets like Germany, the UK, France and even Italy.
The best examples are VW Group with its Seat Toledo and Skoda Rapid sedan (B-Segment), PSA with the Peugeot 301 and Citroen C-Elysee (B-Segment), or the sedan versions of the Opel Astra, Ford Focus, the VW Jetta and the Renault Fluence (C-Segment). They are only popular in Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey, and some of them are not even available at their home markets. Why a Fiat would change that? the low price is the best reason the brand gives, but are the usual subcompact customers looking for a larger sedan? in my opinion the Tipo sedan is only an experiment in an attempt to enlarge the current poor European range, extremely concentrated on the 500 family. The brand had to replace the Linea so it created the Tipo sedan and while the hatchback and SW arrive (which won’t change many things as well, as in my opinion they won’t sell more than 50.000 units/year), they bring the Tipo to Europe in order to have something new to tell.
Fiat 124 Spider
It’s the car that Fiat needs in USA. The small 500 is having problems there with sales plunging by 25%, while the 500L is a totally flop with only 7.555 units sold in November YTD, down 31%. The arrival of the 500X has helped to offset these two big falls, but it’s clear that while the new generation of the iconic 500 arrives, Fiat needed something more chic than the tiny 500 family. The new Fiat 124 Spider features everything to be considered an image product that will certainly contribute to improve the image and rise the awareness in North America. However it won’t be anything different from a niche-market car right as it will be positioned and perceived in the European market.
While it’s expected to be priced starting at 25.000 euro, this car won’t bring significant changes to Fiat in Europe. Of course they need to improve their image and reputation and a small spider like the 124 can help. But that’s it. The car won’t bring big volumes and it could create confusion among consumers as there won’t be a clear brand positioning: is Fiat a mainstream car maker? a niche one? an iconic-cars leader? or a cheap and easy-to-maintain brand?
The Fullback is the “Italian rebadge” of the Mitsubishi L200, built in Thailand. This new Fiat will join a growing segment within the commercial vehicles market that’s mostly controlled by the Japanese brands. According to Fiat Professional, the brand that will “host” the Fullback, this segment counts for 23% of the LCV EMEA market, or 675.000 units/year. This kind of vehicles are very popular in the Middle East and in a large part of Africa. The Toyota Hilux is the best-selling car in Saudi Arabia and in many African countries.
It’s not the case in Europe where is hard to see them, even in the case of the VW Amarok. The Fullback joins an important segment under the efficient Fiat Professional brand but the question is if the traditional buyer of pickups will consider Fiat as an option after years driving Toyota, Mitsubishi or Nissan. Fiat can barely sell its iconic 500 in the Middle East, and its presence in Africa is quite reduced. There’s a very low awareness there and the very few is mostly associated to small and cheap cars. Is the Fullback going to change that?