Fiat will start its reconnection with Aussie consumers via more 500s -- and we are not just talking about trim grades.
According to head of Fiat worldwide, Olivier Francois, the Italian brand will take a leaf from MINI's book to build a range of 500-inspired models, most, if not all, of which will be aimed at international markets -- like Australia.
"We will expand the 500 range. You may find bigger 500s -- four-doors, five door SUVs whatever..." the global boss told motoring.com.au,
"500 has a very strong DNA and with development of future products we have to take into account that DNA. We won't follow MINI but we will follow the same reasoning -- and that may lead us to the same execution... To develop an icon [the 500] across [vehicle] segments," he stated.
Francois said the 500 "Embodies the best of Fiat DNA".
"Design... Italian-ness... Green -- and emotional blend of green and simple solutions... There are segments where this blend of attributes will work. [And] When you start from scratch in markets -- like the US, or Australia to be frank -- that's probably a very good starting point."
The first new member of the family, the almost-MPV-proportioned 500L, is already on books for local release, says Francois. A 500-linked compact SUV will likely join it, he says. Though the L looks likely to arrive in 2013, there's no timeline on the SUV yet.
In the short term, Fiat's first steps to rebuild sales Down Under will centre on more versions of the current 500.
Though Fiat Chrysler Group does not officially take over distribution duties of the iconic Italian brand until May 1, the new operation is already telegraphing a broadening of the 500 range beyond the current 500 Lounge and Abarth versions.
Fiat Asia-Pacific boss Massimo Roserba told motoring.com.au that Australia would soon see at least two lower grades of 500 arrive in the coming months.
"Not only now do we [currently] have only one car [model in Australia] but only one version [of that car]. For sure our intention is to enlarge the 500 range," Roserba told motoring.com.au.
"We try now to give Australia all versions of the 500 -- to complete the range and introduce as soon as possible the 500L," Roserba explained.
"[The] Lounge version is  around $22,000 so we will use [in Australia] the exact same [strategy] as we have with Pop and Sport versions all over the world with the same kind of steps. Starting from $22,000 and moving down. What we have in right-hand drive version off the shelf [will come to Australia]," Roserba said.
It's a strategy backed up in the short term by new local boss Clyde Campbell. Though Campbell has a wider view on Fiat's potential fortunes Down Under (see separate story), the 500-led strategy is important in the short term, he admits.
"There are regulatory differences which mean our cars will be more expensive but look at the UK's 500 line-up as a guide," he told motoring.com.au.
"[But] We are confident that we can win volume with a 500 that's priced competitively."