| The fun factor
Mumbai, Oct. 3: Fiat India today announced that it would launch Doblo, its multi-utility vehicle (MUV), next year, along with a 1900 cc diesel version of the popular Palio.
The launch plans are being seen as the second phase of its aggressive move forward in the Indian market. M. P. Bianchi, chairman and managing director of Fiat India, said Doblo is undergoing clinic tests. One of the successful models from the Fiat stable, its introduction hinges on a market survey to assess whether the car — positioned as a multi-utility vehicle with a sense of fun — will find enough takers here.
“For us, quality is important... we want to launch a product which should have world-class quality,” Bianchi said. The new models are considered the key to the Italian auto giant’s fortunes in India, where it has had a roller-coaster ride in recent years. For instance, after a strong opening, the production of Uno — about 100-200 vehicles every month — has been tied to orders.
Auto figures for September show that Uno sales have plummeted to 1,503 in a slide company officials blamed on the closure of Fiat India’s Kurla plant, near Mumbai.
Fiat wants to pit the diesel Palio, rolling out in early 2003, against Maruti’s Zen D and Telco’s Indica. A upgraded range of the same car, equipped with a host of new features, will also hit the roads in the near future.
Bianchi’s announcements were made at a function to mark one year of Palio in India. Customer feedback was used to add new features in the anniversary model — painted bumpers, enhanced fabric upholstery, rear seat belts, a two-toned dashboard and fifth door inner trim.
Commercial deliveries of the car will begin from October 7. The cost (ex-showroom Delhi) will be Rs 3.69 lakh for EL MS, Rs 3.96 lakh for EL PS, Rs 4.29 lakh for ELX, Rs 4.55 lakh for Palio Sport and Rs 5,31,500 for (1.6) GTX.
Asked about fresh investments by the parent, Bianchi said $ 150 million has been earmarked for three years up to December.
Commenting on Fiat’s global alliance with General Motors, he said: “We have not defined the route we will take in India till now. When the time comes, we will see if we have common areas.”
Palio, launched in September 2001, has helped Fiat India turn around over the past one year. It sold 1,100 cars in two days and finished the year with a sales figure of over 33,000. The company’s cumulative sales for September 2001-August 2002 was 36,081 units against 7,609 units for the corresponding period of the previous year.
Bianchi said local content in Palio has gone up to 88 per cent this year from the 75 per cent when the vehicle was launched. The number of dealers will be increased to 75 by the end of this year from 66 at present.