Fiat Group is planning to invest up to EUR9 billion ($12.3 billion) on new models as it bids to stymie its losses in Europe in three years and revive its nearly empty Italian sites, two people privy with the matter told Bloomberg. Aside from boosting its Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands with new models, the carmaker will also focus the Fiat brand on versions of the 500 and Panda minicars while scrapping the Punto subcompact.
According to Fiat brand chief executive Olivier Francois, the Panda family will be targeted towards budget-conscious customers while 500 models will be aimed at those willing to pay more to get a more premium product. "The Fiat brand has two dimensions, Panda-500, functional-aspirational, left brain-right brain," Francois told Automotive News Europe in an interview.
According to Roberto Verganti, a management professor at Milan Polytechnic, going upscale with “cool, high-margin 500 and Alfa models is the only possible strategy to continue building cars in Italy." Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is currently pressed to stop the Italian carmaker’s bleeding in Europe, especially that a merger between the company and US auto company Chrysler remains uncertain.
Fiat previously disclosed that it targets to develop around 20 new models for Europe by 2016, including eight Alfa Romeos. As part of its luxury focus for its home market, Fiat will introduce 500s, Jeep SUVs and a convertible version of the Alfa Romeo 4C sports car in 2014, according to Bloomberg’s sources.
Those vehicles will be built in Italy. The new Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan will also be built in Italy by 2016. The Fiat Punto, once a best-selling subcompact hatchback for Fiat, will be succeeded by a five-door version of the 500, which will be built in Poland to save costs and boost profit margins.