Make / Model Search

Future models - Abarth

Sports Fiats on the way

Taking Abarth: The Stilo Abarth is powered by a 125kW/221Nm five-cylinder 2.4-litre engine.

Local distributor bites the bullet on Fiat homologation costs

4 Dec 2002

ATECO Automotive has given up on the Canberra bureaucrats and taken the potentially expensive decision to push on with local homologation of the Fiat Stilo and Punto passenger cars.

The company had hoped moves to harmonise Australian Design Rules with international vehicle standards being developed by a UN-sanctioned body called Working Party 29 would save it the time and expense of local homologation.

Up until recently Ateco, which plans to reintroduce Fiat to Australia in early 2004 after a launch at the Sydney motor show late in 2003, had hoped the ADR changes would be completed by December.

But the company is now unsure of just when the changes will be made. Homologating the cars under the ADR process now opens it up to a potential multi-million dollar cost.

Ateco has previously put the cost of local homologation per model variant at $500,000. Initially, only two cars will be homologated, the top sporting Abarth versions of the Corolla-sized Stilo and Echo-sized Punto. Other models will start arriving about 12 months later.

The Stilo Abarth is powered by a 125kW/221Nm five-cylinder 2.4-litre engine, while the current Punto Abarth is revved up by a 1747cc four-cylinder engine producing 96kW and 164Nm.

"It's (ADR revisions) just lost in the corridors of power," said Ateco spokesman Edward Rowe. "We have decided to push on and get the cars homologated.

"When it (WP29) happens it happens, but we are not going to tie up our business for something that now seems to have a fairly open-ended schedule." The relaunch of the Fiat passenger car range will follow on from the launch of the Fiat Ducato light commercial range in June. Ateco also handles local sale of Alfa Romeo, which is a subsidiary of Fiat Auto. Fiats were last sold here in 1989.

Ateco governing director Neville Crichton is confident local homologation will not be overly-complicated or therefore expensive.

"The only problem we could have is seatbelt restraints and there are vehicles arriving for testing in 10 days time," he said.

Ateco's decision to only launch the top sports models of the Stilo and the Punto - which will be facelifted in early 2003 - was based on a softly-softly approach to the Italian brand's return, Mr Crichton said.

"We see a youth audience for Fiat," he said.

"We wouldn't be trying to go $19,990 and compete with the Japanese.

"We would be looking at Abarth-type niche markets and going for those.

"They are better products and we think it's a sportier market we are looking for." After a visit to Fiat Auto just three weeks ago, Mr Crichton dismissed any chance of the struggling giant going out of business, or Ateco's commitment to bringing the brand back to Australia being under any doubt.

"We are absolutely positive about it," he said.

"I think there's a massive amount of restructure which probably should have happened a long time ago, but Fiat's going to survive. It will be very much a different management format but Fiat will absolutely survive." *Ateco will soon start selling the Ducato through a dealer network rather than distributing it directly. "The sales numbers next year you will see grow very, very rapidly," Mr Crichton predicted. Just 47 Ducatos have been sold since launch.

The Road to Recovery podcast series

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Abarth models

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here