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Market Insight: Fiat set to reach 7500 sales this year

Booster shot: Sales of the regular Fiat 500 and its sporty Abarth derivatives were up 142 per cent in the first half of this year, and look set to maintain momentum with the new MY14 Series 3.

Upgraded 500 to boost Fiat sales further as Italian cars climb 222 per cent in H1


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5 Aug 2014

FIAT Chrysler is expecting the newly arrived MY14 Fiat 500 Series 3 range to continue the strong sales momentum it has built in the first half of this year as the Italian quarter of the predominantly American-led stable reaches new heights under the factory-backed Australian operation.

Of the 21,261 sales the group had racked up at the halfway point of the year, Jeep accounted for two thirds of those – 14,207, up 43.2 per cent – but a stunning 222 per cent increase in Fiat passenger car sales, taking its first-half total to 2999 units, has seen it overtake Chrysler (1083 units, down 17.6 per cent) as the number-two brand in the collection.

While Dodge was also down, to 1083 sales for the period, the Fiat Professional light commercial brand climbed 17.6 per cent to 708 new registrations, and Alfa Romeo – the other Italian brand managed by Fiat Chrysler Australia (Ferrari and Maserati are handled elsewhere) – rose 99.4 per cent over last year’s first half to 1432 units and a solid third position.

Fiat has come a long way since its return to Australia under independent importer Ateco Automotive in 2001 with the Ducato commercial vehicle range, and the subsequent launch of Fiat passenger cars in 2006 with the compact Punto and, two years later, the 500 city car and Ritmo small car.

Factors such as aggressive pricing moves, improved vehicle supplies, extra model variants and increased marketing expenditure have generated record sales for Fiat cars in the two years since both it and Alfa joined the existing Chrysler business in Australia in May 2012.

By that point only the 500 remained, but the Dodge Journey-based Fiat Freemont SUV was added in April last year – starting at just $27,000 driveaway, or $28,500 for the seven-seat version – and the 500 range was overhauled two months later with a market-shaking $14K d/a entry price for the cute, fashionable and, crucially, now easily attainable Italian bambino.

What’s more, Punto returned to market shortly after with a sharp $16,000 d/a opening position, while the light-sized Panda turned up in October priced from $16,500 d/a.

All this activity has brought a bevy of new buyers to the brand. Fiat finished with 3854 passenger car sales last year – up 651 per cent over 2012 (during which sales were disrupted with the changeover in distribution) – while for the 12-month period from July 1 2013 to June 30 this year, the tally was out to 5922, with the 500 and the sporty Abarth derivatives accounting for 57 per cent of these.

The Fiat brand’s average passenger car sales in the first half of 2014 – which, eerily, turns out to be exactly 500 a month – puts it on track to accumulate 6000 passenger car sales this year, and around 7500 for the brand as a whole.

Last year, Fiat finished with 5088 sales overall (including light commercials) – more than Peugeot (4413), Skoda (3555), Mini (2535) and the aborted Opel brand (1610), and with Renault now in its sights (7016).

In contrast, from 2008 to 2012 Fiat averaged less than 700 passenger car sales a year, and 1683 overall per annum with LCVs thrown in.

Commenting on Fiat Chrysler’s first-half sales results, the company’s Australian president and CEO Veronica Johns paid tribute to its dealer network, adding: “To be running well ahead of the market shows Fiat Chrysler Group is hitting the mark with all of our products and offers.”

The group is now on track to post more than 42,000 sales for the year, with Australia keeping its end up in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ global sales and expansion plans, which involve a doubling of sales over the next five years and a raft of new and upgraded models.

For Fiat, the 500X crossover makes its global debut at the Paris motor show in October, and the brand is also in line to receive more SUVs and the still-to-be-revealed sportscar (originally slated for Alfa Romeo) based on Mazda’s new-generation MX-5.

These are all models that will enhance Fiat’s status and sales in Australia, taking it well past the point of mere ‘survival’ and into a position where it can potentially thrive in this competitive market.

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