Fiat announces pricing but no sales targets for 500L minivan
TURIN -- Fiat says prices for the 500L minivan, the fourth variant of its 500 minicar range, will start at 15,550 euros in Europe, but declined to give any sales targets for the new model.
"Given the current uncertainty of the European market, it would be unfair and unprofessional to give any sales target," Fiat brand global head Olivier Francois said at the vehicle's media launch on July 3.
The 500L joins the 500 hatchback, Abarth performance version and 500C convertible and will go on sale in Italy and France in September, followed by the rest of Europe in October. Sales in North America - and possibly in Asia - will begin next year.
Francois said that installed capacity for the 500L at Fiat's plant in Kragujevac, Serbia, is 600 units a day. Production began on July 4, the 55th anniversary of the launch of the original 500 model on July 4, 1957 and will ramp up to 550 units a day by year end, he added.
According to Mauro Pierallini, Fiat Group's head of engineering, Fiat has invested 1 billion euros in developing the 500 L project. "We spent around 200 million units in research & development and another 800 million euros to refurbish the plant," Pierallini said.
No.1 in segment
Francois said Fiat intends take the lead with the 500L in the small minivan segment, which includes the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva, Citroen C3 Picasso and Ford B-Max.
Last year, the Meriva was Europe's best selling small minivan with sales of 127,500 units, ahead of the C3 Picasso with 65,100 and the Renault Modus/Grand Modus with 48,300, according to data from JATO Dynamics market researchers. Ford's B-Max goes on sale in September.
The 500L replaces the Idea small minivan Fiat discontinued at the end of last year.
Fiat will offer three variants of the 500L. The standard five-seat model, which goes on sale in Europe from September, a seven-seat variant, which is 153 mm longer than the five-seat model and goes into production in the fourth quarter of 2013 and an SUV-styled model called Trekking, which features higher-ground clearance and an electronically controlled front differential that increases traction on slippery surfaces. Production of the Trekking variant will begin in the second quarter of 2013.
Fiat is offering two gasoline engines in the 500L, a 105-hp 900cc, two -cylinder turbo TwinAir powertrain and a 95-hp 1.4-liter 4-cylinder unit. Two diesel engines will also be available; a 85-hp 1.3-liter unit and a 105-hp 1.6-liter unit. From next year, Fiat will also offer a compressed natural gas variant of the TwinAir engine.
Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said sales of the 500L in the U.S. market will begin in the first half of 2013, with the five-seat and the Trekking variants, but not the seven-seat model. Fiat believes U.S. customers won't buy a seven-seat vehicle as small as the 500L.
Fiat will add a fifth variant to the 500 lineup next year, the 500X, a small crossover, which will got on sale in Europe in 2014 and shortly after in North America. The model will replace the Sedici in Fiat's lineup. The 500X will be the longest model in the 500 family and like the 500L will use a widened version of Fiat's small vehicle architecture that underpins the Punto subcompact.
Since the relaunch of the retro-styled 500 in 2007, Fiat has built 860,000 units, around two thirds of which have been sold outside the Italian market, the automaker said.
You can reach Luca Ciferri at email@example.com.