Fiat to assemble Abarth500 in India; compete with Mini, Beetle

Italian automaker Fiat, which plans to launch its super premium hatchback Abarth 500 this year in India, is looking to locally assemble the car at its manufacturing plant at Ranjangaon.

The 160 HP super hatchback will slog it out with the likes of Volkswagen's Beetle and BMWs Mini Cooper in the niche luxury compact car segment in Indian auto market.

"We plan to launch Abarth 500 later this year in India. Initially we would import the car as a completely built unit (CBU) but later on we plan to locally assemble it at our Ranjangaon plant," Fiat Group Automobiles India President and Managing Director Nagesh Basavanhalli told PTI here.

The plan to locally assemble the Abarth 500 is to have a competitive pricing advantage, he added.

The company, which is present in the country through a wholly-owned subsidiary, is also adding new models in its product portfolio this year to rev-up its sales.

"By December this year, we will have a product line up of five vehicles. By 2016 we plan to have nine models in our Indian line up," Basavanhalli said.

The company plans to roll out four models till December this year. It will launch an updated version of its flagship model Linea next month.

"Apart from the Linea, we will also be launching new version of Punto, Avventura and Abarth 500 during this year," Basavanhalli said.

He added that the Linea Classic, which was launched last year, would cater to the low end of C-segment while the soon to be launched new Linea would cater to the high end of the segment.

When asked about the launch of sports utility vehicle Jeep in India, Basavanhalli said the model would be introduced as there is some revival of economic situation in the country.

"Jeep needs to be in this (Indian) market. So when the market comes back it will be here. It will come as a CBU, so we need to take into consideration other factor like the foreign exchange fluctuations before launching it," he said.

The company's Ranjangaon plant near Pune has the capacity to produce two lakh cars and three lakh engines and transmissions annually.

Bullish about the compact SUV Avventura, he said: "This will be a global launch of a vehicle designed and developed for the Indian market. We are targeting aspiring Indian and that's why we are positioning it as CUV (compact urban vehicle)."

The company is also looking to export the Avventura from India and is currently studying the markets where all it could be exported. The vehicle is slated to be launched in the country later this year in both petrol and diesel variants.

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