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Fiat aims big with its secret small car

New Delhi, March 14: Fiat India, the local unit of struggling Italian car maker Fiat Auto, plans to introduce the group’s still secret small car project — a supermini and a compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) — in India later this year as part of a global launch.

Fiat India is betting on these two models— being built under two projects code named Project 169 and Project 350 — to drive up its sales and profits as the auto maker battles stiff competition from Hyundai’s Santro and Maruti’s compact vehicles — Wagon R and Zen.

“The compact car looks like a cross between the Santro and Wagon R. It will be a small city sports utility vehicle,” industry sources said adding it will be wider than the Santro. “The length will be about 3.5 metres, width 1.6 metres and height 1.5 metres,” he said.

The compact multi-purpose vehicle, would be a 1.3-litre multi-jet 16-valve diesel with a second-generation common rail direct injection (CRDI) technology.

The CRDI diesel technology has the performance of a petrol engine while retaining the fuel economy of a diesel engine, explained auto analysts.

“It will be available in a fully loaded version for the domestic market,” he said. “It will boast of airbags, a compact disc music system and also a manual or automatic climate control system.”

Fiat India today launched the diesel versions of Palio, a compact car in the small car segment as well as the mid-sized Adventure. While the lower-end version, 1.9-litre Palio Diesel EL has been priced at Rs 4.19 lakh, the Adventure diesel would cost Rs 6.99 lakh.

For the nine-month period (April-December), the Italian automaker has sold 19,956 units in the mini-car segment while 2,391 units in the mid-size car segment, which comprises Sienas and Adventures.

Analysts said the Indian unit’s sales have been hit due to the financial problems of parent Fiat Auto.

Fiat Auto, 20 per cent owned by US automaker General Motors and considered an expertise in small cars, had reported major losses due to lower sales and slumped exports.

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