| it’s a slog-over chase without him
New Delhi, Aug. 28: Fiat India is offering a huge bargain basement discount of Rs 1.75 lakh on the Palio S10 — the signature model endorsed by master-blaster Sachin Tendulkar.
The company has decided not to renew its contract with Tendulkar who came on board as Fiat’s brand ambassador when the company launched the hatchback Palio in September 2001.
The S-10 was launched with great fanfare at the Auto Fair in Delhi in January 2002.
Sources said Fiat would not initiate discussions with Tendulkar to renew the contract scheduled to expire in November, 2003, as the loss-making automaker is currently cash-strapped and has reported 65 per cent lower losses in 2002 compared with a year earlier.
“Tendulkar is costly and the two-year deal was worth Rs 11.5 crore,” sources said.
Fiat would be unable to ‘legally’ sell any Tendulkar-branded products after the expiry of the contract, sources explained.
“As a result, Fiat is on a stock clearance drive and offering the S10 model at the price of a 1.2-litre Palio ELS,” he added.
The big discount on the S-10 will raise major questions about the viability of getting big-hitting brand endorsers like Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan to endorse cars.
Earlier this month, Maruti Udyog started offering the Versa — the multi-utility vehicle endorsed by Bachchan and his son at the time of its launch two years ago — for a piffling Rs 4 lakh, a discount of over Rs 1.5 lakh.
Tendulkar, who has played 105 Tests and 314 one-day internationals, was named Fiat’s brand ambassador to turn around its sales volumes.
Fiat, which has invested more than $50 crore in India since 1997, has had a rough ride with the Siena and Adventure sedans and Uno hatchback models.
In an effort to drive up sales, the automaker had introduced the ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ branded Palio S10 model with a sticker price of Rs 5.6 lakh and powered by a 1.6-litre engine.
The Palio currently competes with Hyundai’s Santro, three hatchbacks from Maruti Udyog Ltd, and Tata Motor’s Indica.
Fiat India, which supplies components to other Fiat facilities around the world, has also decided to restructure its capital, thereby nullifying the effect of accumulated losses in India.
The automaker is also focusing on exporting cars to markets that have the “right hand drive” where Fiat does not have a plant — mainly South-East Asian countries.
The company expects to sell 40,000 to 42,000 cars in 2003, up 25 to 30 per cent from the 32,111 units it sold last year. While it sold 952 cars in July 2003 compared with 1,131 cars in the previous month.