Fiat teases China-built Viaggio sedan ahead of Beijing debut
TURIN -- Fiat released teaser images of the Viaggio, a new compact sedan for the Chinese market.
The car will debut at the Beijing auto show on April 23 and will go on sale in China toward the end of the year.
The four-door, five-seat Viaggio is based on the CUSW (Compact US Wide) architecture, which Fiat says is its most advanced platform. The car is a reworked version of the Dodge Dart.
Fiat will start Viaggio production in July as the first model from the automaker's joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group. Viaggio means voyage in English and its Chinese name Fei Xiang means flying.
Fiat-Chrysler Group wants "to become a key player in the significant" Chinese market, it said in a statement on Friday, boosting annual sales to 300,000 by 2014, from less than 1,500 last year.
The Italian automaker has so far failed to gain a foothold in the world's largest auto market, which is expected to grow by 8 percent in 2012 and reach 14 million annual sales by 2014. No Fiat models have been produced in China since the automaker's joint venture with Nanjing Automotive ended in 2007.
At 4679mm long (15.35 feet), the Viaggio is slightly longer than the 4670mm (15.32 feet) Dart. In size, it fits in between the Ford Focus sedan sold in central and eastern Europe, Russia and China and the Mondeo mid-sized sedan.
The Viaggio has different front and rear ends from the Dart and smaller headlights, separated from a sleeker, smaller grille. In the Dart, bigger headlights extend into a much taller grille.
At the back, the Viaggio features a specific trunk lid, with light-emitting diode rear lamps.
The Viaggio will be built at Fiat and Guangzhou Auto's new factory in the Changsha Economic Zone in Hunan province. The partners plan an initial annual capacity of 140,000 vehicles. That number is expected to rise quickly to 250,000.
In China, the Viaggio will be powered by locally built, 120-hp and 150-hp turbocharged versions of Fiat's 1.4-liter gasoline engine. Fiat and Guangzhou's joint venture powertrain plant, which is also in the Changsha Economic Zone, is forecast to have an initial volume of 220,000 engines a year.
The Viaggio comes with ether a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Fiat also plans to launch a shorter hatchback version of the Viaggio in China in 2013. That car could be exported to Europe to replace the slow-selling Bravo compact hatchback, company sources have told Automotive News Europe.
Fiat tries again in China
Fiat and Guangzhou Auto plan to invest 5 billion yuan (about 594 million euros) in their 50-50 joint venture.
Fiat hopes this partnership goes better than its last two. In December 2007, Fiat sold its share in its money-losing joint venture with Nanjing Automotive to China's Shanghai Automotive.
Fiat tried to form a partnership with Chery Automotive in 2007, but that deal also collapsed.
Currently, Fiat's few China sales come from imported models from Italy such as the Bravo, Linea and Punto and the 500 and Freemont, which are built by Chrysler in Mexico.
"The Chinese market is still wide open and if I were Fiat, I would want to get into that market," said Michael Dunne, president of Dunne & Co, a Hong Kong-based consultancy that specializes in Asian car markets. "There is no massive brand loyalty. They have a good partner."
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this story
You can reach Luca Ciferri at email@example.com.