Fiat is counting on the new Ottimo compact hatchback to increase output at its underutilized Chinese factory.
The China-only car, which will be unveiled Thursday at an auto show in Guangzhou, is derived from the Viaggio compact sedan.
The car is aimed at young consumers in the country who Fiat says are turning more and more often to compact hatchbacks. Fiat hopes the Ottimo's Italian styling will make the car stand out against rivals in a crowded segment.
Starting in 2014, the Ottimo will be built alongside the Viaggio in the central China city of Changsha by GAC Fiat Automobiles, the Italian automaker's joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group.
The GAC Fiat plant has an installed annual capacity of 140,000 vehicles but has not come close to that volume because sales of the Viaggio, the factory's only model, are just 3,000 a month.
GAC Fiat, however, foresees a major production increase to 70,000 units in Changsha next year of which 40,000 will be Viaggios and 30,000 Ottimos, industry sources in Turin told Automotive News Europe.
Fiat needs to grow in China to counter losses in Europe were it 10-month sales were down 8 percent to 632,952 vehicles, according to industry association ACEA.
To reach full capacity at the plant, GAC Fiat also wants to add production of the new Jeep Cherokee but still needs approval from the Chinese government. Jeep CEO Mike Manley told Automotive News Europe earlier this year that the approval is expected by the end of the year so that output can begin in 2015.
GAC Fiat was established in 2010 and started production of the Viaggio this year. It is the first car built in China by the Fiat since 2007, which is when the automaker ended an eight-year alliance with Nanjing Automobile Group. After that, Fiat had a partnership with Chery Automobile, which fell apart after two years.