You could bet your last rupee that Fiat wouldn't figure in a survey of top ten Indian
brands. Not many consumers on this sub-continent are aware of the company's great heritage
and the fact that it is the parent of evocative marques like Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa
Romeo. For a number of reasons, this Italian auto giant has faced an image problem ever
since it set up shop in India in 1995.
started out on the wrong foot with an ill-fated association with Premier Automobiles (PAL)
to produce the boxy-looking and outdated Uno. Poor service and low levels of customer
satisfaction only compounded the lack of consumer confidence. Because of this, even Fiat's
newer and more competitive cars like the Siena and Weekend have not managed to get
customers to bite. As a result, Fiat's product line-up is the most under-rated around.
Fiat has realised that the only way to succeed in this market is to dump its historic
baggage and make a fresh start. But to do that it needed a fresh product. The launch of
the new Palio this month has given Fiat the perfect opportunity to do that. Introduced
internationally in November 2000, the new Palio will be the most contemporary hatchback in
India. It's the latest evolution of Fiat's 'world car' platform which has been a success
in emerging markets around the globe. The Palio will initially come with two engines, a
base 1.2 litre and the sizzling 1.6 'torque' motor in a variety of trim levels. The idea
is to span the entire range of the economy car or 'B-segment' and peg the Palio at
different price points. Clearly, Fiat has put its shoulder to the wheel and this is a do
or die effort by Fiat against some very formidable rivals.