MILAN, Italy -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will soon bring to market the Fiat 500X, just months after the launch of the Jeep Renegade, but industry watchers don't expect the 500X to cannibalize sales from its sister model.
The 500X, which will be unveiled at the Paris auto show next week, is the latest attempt by Fiat to capitalize on the popularity of its 500 minicar with a series of models that share the 500 hatchback's retro design.
The 500X and Renegade, both subcompact crossovers, share the same underpinnings and will be built on the same production line in Italy.
Analysts say the vehicles will appeal to different types of customers. "The Jeep [Renegade] and 500X can coexist, "said Giorgio Elefante, a PwC consultant.
Ian Fletcher, an IHS Automotive analyst, said the 500X is a "cute, urban vehicle with off-road capabilities," while the Renegade is the "rugged" off-roader expected from a Jeep. "They are almost like the male and female version of the same model, although I expect the two models to please both men and women."
The strength of the 500X will be its design, while that of the Renegade will be its functionality, Fletcher said.
The subcompact SUV/crossover segment is the industry's fastest growing market segment globally. IHS Automotive forecasts vehicle sales in the segment to rise 31 percent to 1.95 million units sales globally. The growth will continue next year, IHS says, with sales rising to 2.56 million units.
Fletcher said many buyers are switching to SUV/crossovers from minivans.
The 500X is the latest example of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) using the combined resources of Fiat and Chrysler to reduce the time and cost of developing and building new models — a strategy deployed by rivals such as Volkswagen.
Fiat and Chrysler have shared models before such as the Fiat Freemont, which is a rebadged Dodge Journey, but the 500X and the Jeep Renegade are the first models developed and built from scratch by the automakers.
The 500X and Renegade will come off the same production lines at Fiat's factory in Melfi, central Italy, where the planned annual volume for the Renegade is up to 150,000 units, while the 500X version will account for 130,000 units, according to supplier sources.
IHS Automotive expects sales of 109,425 for the Renegade next year and 72,897 for the 500X. It sees sales growing in the following year by 45 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
The 500X will appear in European dealerships before the end of the year, and next spring in the U.S. In Europe, the 500X will replace Fiat's slow-selling Sedici, which Suzuki built at its plant in Hungary. The 500X will complete the 500 lineup, sitting alongside the 500L minivan and the 500 three-door hatchback.
Luca Ciferri contributed to this report