Fiat’s all new Viaggio sedan saw production commence on Thursday 28th June, the new sedan is so far a China only model but will be eventually taken to other markets as well. Fiat Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne as well as other senior Fiat Chrysler management, and also senior government ministers were on hand to see the launch of the Viaggio, and also Guangzhou Fiat’s new China facility. Fiat’s joint venture with Nanjing Fiat was terminated in 2007 after both parties decided to end the agreement, Fiat blamed Nanjing Auto for putting its best staff in the then MG project, and Nanjing Auto claimed that Fiat were not interesting in introducing any new models into the Chinese market.
Sergio Marchionne was keen to stress that the new Guangzhou-Fiat production facility is one of Fiat’s most modern production facilities, the new factory comes just two years after Fiat signed a new joint venture with Guangzhou Auto Group, the sixth largest manufacturer in China. When Marchionne took to the stage at the beginning of the ceremony he lavished praise on government ministers from Hunan and Guangdong who assisted Fiat with turning the greenfield site into a world class manufacturing facility capable of creating 140,000 cars per year in phase 1 and 240,000 in phase 2.
The noticeably dressed down VIP’s took to the stage to hit the start of production button, a silver curtain slung back and out popped a female singer bellowing the ‘Song of the Viaggio‘, Marchionne shot a confused look to his Fiat Chrysler APAC colleagues, then a second curtain opened and the first Viaggio finally rolled off the production lines, applause was finally forthcoming.
During an interview session with Marchionne it was revealed that the Fiat China plant will be filling Chinese demand for Fiat’s but will also see its produce exported to other markets as part of Fiat’s plan to expand into other territories. On the issue of Alfa Romeo coming into China to rival the German luxury brands, Sergio did say that the brand would be here by the end of the year but did not confirm the brand would be produced in China just yet.
The Viaggio is the sister car to the Dodge Dart, although it has some subtle changes for the China market. Marchionne believes that the original Nanjing-Fiat joint venture failed due to Fiat not placing enough importance on understanding the Chinese market and forcing ‘solutions’ onto the Chinese market that were just not acceptable, Fiat now believe that the Chinese consumer demands technology and comfort which is why they have chosen to go with Fiat’s own 1.4 T-Jet engine at launch and refined rear suspension that does away with the independent rear suspension seen in the Dart and replaced with a torsion beam instead.
Pricing for the Viaggio has not yet been announced but Chinese automotive media are estimating that it will start at around 110,000RMB for the basic version and rise to around 160,000RMB for the top model. The Viaggio, as a compact car, is entering a fierce market, rivals from VW, Ford, and Chevrolet already have a strangle hold on the segment but the Viaggio’s unique styling will no doubt stand out amongst the slightly bland competition. Sales will begin later this year, initial sales goals of not yet been announced but Fiat will have to overcome the stigma of a failed joint venture which left them with a reduced sales network (around 100 dealers to date) and also tarnished name although with continued introduction of new models and ‘China focused’ vehicles, the company is in a strong position to turn its China fortunes around fast.