Snapshot – Fiat is in its second innings in India, after a disastrous end to its first innings, when the Italian automaker got into trouble with its Indian partner, Premier Automobiles Limited (PAL). In its second innings too, Fiat has failed to capitalize on the goodwill that the brand has had in this country.
Cars with the Fiat badge now are often the last choice of buyers in India. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why Fiat is where it is currently, in second last place, ahead of only Hindustan Motors-Mitsubishi, which is a one trick pony anyway. Here are five ways in which Fiat has messed up car and SUV launches in India.
You don’t aim sluggish cars at enthusiasts.
Enthusiasts are a very limited car buying segment in India in the first place. While these folks love cars that handle well and are willing to put up with stiff riding cars, they clearly can’t compromise on pep. While Fiat’s cars feel literally feel like vaults when you shut the doors, the way they move off the block is plain sluggish.
Building a heavy car is great, but not giving it enough push and shove is criminal. This criminality is apparent on cars such as the Fiat Punto 1.2, the Punto with the 75 Bhp Multijet diesel and the Linea with the 90 Bhp diesel. The saving grace is the Punto 90 HP, but even this car doesn’t feel peppy off the block.
Its gearing makes it more of a roll-on machine, stuff that doesn’t enthuse too many buyers. The results at the hustings are there to see. The Volkswagen Polo GT TDI comprehensively outsells the Fiat Punto 90 HP. The only Fiat car that’s worth the enthusiast rupee in stock form is the Linea T-Jet.
Frequent divorces hurt the cars bad.
Fiat tied up with Tata Motors in two joint ventures. One was meant to build car and the other, to sell and service cars. While one end of this joint venture is still going strong, Tata-Fiat dealers began pushing Fiat car buyers towards Tata cars. Before Fiat realized this, it was too late, and the faith of the customer was shaken once again.
Word travels fast in motown, and more so if it’s something negative. Fiat has already been through the perception battle twice, and has lost both times. The first time, Fiat and PAL struggled with labour issues, killing the Uno in the process. Then it scooted off from Indaia, leaving Palio and Siena owners distraught.
Frequent divorces hurt the kids bad, and nobody wants troubled kids. Fiat cars in essence are like troubled kids, who carry unreasonable burdens of their past. If Fiat cars have poor resale and brand value in India, the frequent divorces and the subsequent lack of consumer confidence can squarely be blamed for this.
Delayed launches mean denied buyers.
To top all this, delayed launches only makes you seem indifferent and uncaring towards the Indian car market and the buyer here. When will you understand this Fiat? The Italian automaker took unreasonably long to bring the facelifted Linea to India. More delays came with the Punto Evo and Avventura launches.
The latest delayed launch tragedy is that of the Fiat 500 Abarth, which is supposed to be a “brand builder” of all things. We can only hope that the Fiat Punto Abarth and Avventura Abarth make the launch cut on time. Delayed launches make for denied buyers and overjoyed competition.
If Brand Fiat isn’t getting lost in the din due to the long delays, Brand Jeep could be the latest casualty. The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, both supposed to be brand builders, haven’t yet reached the Indian market. And these SUVs were supposed to be here last Diwali.
Selling your best engines to competition isn’t the brightest thing to do.
Case in point is the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross, which will soon be the first car in the country to be powered by the 1.6 liter Multijet turbo diesel engine. This engine, with 120 Bhp-320 Nm on tap, is what the Fiat Linea should have arrived with in the first place.
While Fiat India could still equip the Linea with this motor, it simply seems disinterested. The company seems happiest selling its Multijet turbo diesel engines to competition, Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors in this case. Fiat cars continue to languish in the “underpowered” category.
Boring product portfolio means bored buyers.
The Fiat Linea was introduced in India in January 2009, and an all-new model, in this case the Aegea will replace it in the second half of 2017. Who in this world keeps a car alive with one minor facelift for nearly 9 years. We’re not talking MUVs here but sedans, which have 5 year life cycles.
In the time that one generation of the Fiat Linea sells in the Indian market, we would have seen two Honda City generations fly past. The same is the case with the Fiat Punto, which was launched in June 2009. In an era of instant gratification, Fiat is seeking to emulate Hindustan Motors. This explains why the former is the latter’s bedfellow at the bottom of sales charts.