TURIN – Fiat will debut the Viaggio compact sedan at the Beijing auto show next month and start producing the car in China in July, ahead of a market launch expected before the end of the year.
The first model from Fiat's joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group is crucial to the Italian automaker's plan to grow beyond Europe, where car sales are expected to decline for the fifth consecutive year. Fiat aims to boost its sales in China to 300,000 by 2014 from fewer than 1,500 last year.
Thus far, Fiat has been unsuccessful at gaining a foothold in the world's largest auto market, which is expected to grow another 8 percent in 2012 after exceeding 13 million passenger-car sales last year. No Fiat models have been produced in China since the automaker's joint venture with Nanjing Automotive failed in 2007.
The Viaggio (the Italian word for journey) is a reworked version of the Dodge Dart, which is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
The Viaggio is slightly longer than the 4670mm Dart and 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 a different front end from the Dart and a trunk while the Dart is fastback with a more rounded tail. The two vehicles share doors and most of their interior.