Fiat's trademark retro baby car, the 500 will carry the Italian brand's standard Down Under for at least the next few years. That's the news from Fiat's global head Olivier Francois at this week's Beijing Motor Show.
However, new local Fiat boss, Fiat Chrysler Group head, Clyde Campbell has bigger plans.
Francois told motoring.com.au that a wider range of models of the iconic city car, plus variants it would spawn -- including the recently debuted 500L -- would account for the lion's share of the marque's volume Down Under. Though he didn't rule out more models joining the Australian line-up, the focus would be firmly on the 500, he stated.
Francois thus ruled out a right-hand drive version of the new midsized Viaggio which made its world debut at Auto China 2012 in Beijing. Conceived for the Chinese marketplace, the Dodge Dart/Alfa Romeo Giulietta-based sedan will be built in-market with volumes tipped to exceed 100,000 units per annum -- but only as left-hand drive.
Fiat Asia-Pacific head Massimo Roserba backed up his boss -- and also poured water on the prospects of Fiat models such as Punto and Panda Down Under. Campbell has a different view, however.
"In the short term, 500 will be the focus, for sure, but we see that there is potential to have a wider portfolio on sale in Australia," Campbell told motoring.com.au.
"If you asked me if we have [medium-term] plans to boost sales to 15,000 or 20,000, then I would say no. But we see there are models [in Fiat's international portfolio] that have potential in the [Australian] marketplace," he said.
Campbell's operation officially takes over the distribution of Fiat and Alfa Romeo models in Australia on May 1. He says his team is looking hard at Fiat's UK line-up as a starting point for re-establishing Fiat's presence in Australia. First to arrive Down Under will be cheaper lower-spec versions of the 500 (see separate story).
Though some regulatory differences may hamstring his plans, he says models like Panda, Punto and Grand Punto are all back on the agenda for Australia. Campbell also flagged the Linea sedan as a potential add-on to the local line-up. Built in both India and Turkey, the Mazda3-sized sedan is one of Fiat's top-sellers in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) markets.
"There are some issues, such as availability of automatic transmission [in the Linea], but it could work well in the Australian marketplace," he said.