Fiat CEO Marchionne delays launch of new Panda until January 2012

Article by Christian Andrei, on October 6, 2010

Sources said that the launch of the Panda, the third generation of Europe's biggest-selling minicar, will be delayed further due to Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's latest investment freeze. Sources told Automotive News Europe that the new Panda has been postponed until January 2012.

The Panda was supposed to be launched this summer but in late 2008, Marchionne ordered a spending freeze and the launch was put off until September 2011. Aside from the Panda, the Lancia Ypsilon subcompact will also be delayed again. It is now due 26 months later than originally planned in May.

And instead of in December 2011, production of the two minivans to replace the Fiat Musa and Multipla will begin in the second half of 2012.

These delays were ordered by Marchionne so that these new models won’t be launched in a declining market. Marchionne doesn’t expect the European market to recovery in the near-term. At the Paris Motor Show, Marchionne said that it doesn’t make sense to launch new products “in a market that is so structurally weak.”

He was quoted to have said that Fiat is “saving [its] ammunition” for a recovery. What Marchionne predicts for car sales in Western Europe is that 12.5 million units will be sold in 2011 (the same number as this year). However, it will have a very weak first quarter in 2011 compared with the first quarter of 2010 when sales were boosted by scrapping programs in major European markets.

Without the benefit of new products, Fiat's new car sales in Europe are likely to continue to drop. ACEA, the European automakers association, said that in the first 8 months of 2010, Fiat sales in the EU dropped by13.9% to 723,356 units in a total market that fell 3.5% to 9 million units. From 9% the year before, Fiat’s market share has fallen to 8%. [via autonews - sub. required]

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