TURIN - Fiat Auto's fifth variation in its 178 world car program, the Strada pickup, is being launched in South America. Sales in western Europe will start in spring 1999.
Built in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the Strada is 4400mm long and 1640mm wide, with a 1,100-liter cargo space and a 700kg loading capacity. It replaces the Fiorino. Two gasoline engine options will be available at launch: a 1.5-liter, 76hp, 8-valve and a 1.6-liter, 106hp, 16-valve. A turbodiesel unit will be added when European sales begin.
The Strada name is not new to Fiat. The lower-medium Ritmo hatchback, launched in 1978, was renamed the Strada in the UK, Ireland and the USA.
Fiat said it is considering production of its 178 world car range in Iran, in partnership with local industrial group Pars Khodro.
Fiat is negotiating a similar agreement with Nasco in Egypt. The plan is to assemble 10,000 units by the end of 1999, replacing the Tempra which is built there under license.
The 178 world car program is already underway in Argentina, Brazil, Morocco, Poland, Turkey and Venezuela. It is about to begin in Russia, India and South Africa.
The program began in April 1996 with the Palio three- and five-door hatchbacks. The Siena sedan followed in December 1996, and the Palio Weekend station wagon in February 1997.
To date, Fiat has built over 800,000 units of the 178 family - 150,000 in 1996, rising to 440,000 in 1997, and with 600,000 planned for this year. It will invest over $2 billion to complete the program, with production planned to reach one million units a year in 2000.
Fiat's world car plans also include a small van to replace the Brazilian-built Fiorino Furgao, expected in late 2000.
The Palio Weekend station wagon is the only 178 model currently offered in western Europe.