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Punto here within 10 months

Fiat punt: The Italians will gamble in the local premium light car segment with the next-generation Punto.

All-new Punto hatch to relaunch Fiat brand here in early 2006

25 May 2005

ATECO Automotive boss Neville Crichton has confirmed sales of Fiat passenger cars will finally commence Down Under in early 2006.

Ateco, which holds the Australian and New Zealand distribution rights for Fiat, has since 2003 stated the expensive budget required to relaunch the Fiat passenger car brand locally would make imports unviable until the Australian dollar was worth at least 65 Euro cents.

But now Mr Crichton said Ateco "can live" with the conversion rate, which currently stands at around 60 Euro cents to the Aussie dollar.

"It’s 99 per cent certain we will launch Fiat early next year – but only with the new Punto initially," he told GoAuto.

"As they launch new products it’s our intention to launch the cars – we don’t want to launch any of the older Fiat product. They’ve got a new generation and as they roll it out we’ll launch them here. The new Punto’s a ball-tearer." It is believed the new Punto small car will be launched in left-hand drive European markets in November and the first right-hand drive market (Ireland) will take delivery in January.

"I think we can get January production so hopefully we can get it here before the (Melbourne) show (in March)," Mr Crichton said.

While Ateco has imported Fiat’s Ducato commercial van here successfully since 2002, the return of Fiat passenger cars would mark the car brand’s return to Australia after a hiatus of more than 10 years.

In line with its intention to offer Fiat models that will not cannibalise its own Alfa Romeo models, Ateco hopes to complement next year’s Punto – which is due to appear at the Frankfurt motor show in September - with Fiat’s new Croma wagon.

The first Fiat to be developed from GM’s Signum platform, which has been codenamed Fiat Large, Croma may be available here with 112kW 2.2-litre petrol and 160kW 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engines.

However, it’s not slated for right-hand drive production until mid-2006.

Just as automatic-transmission Croma will be large enough to compete with Australia’s most popular homegrown wagons, Punto will rival mini hatches like Barina and Fiesta here.

Arbath-badged performance versions of the current Stilo small car are also under consideration for Australia.

GoAuto can help you buy a new Punto

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