Fiat Auto will replace its Palio world car family with a new generation of vehicles based on a dedicated platform that could be developed with General Motors.
Fiat had planned for the 2005 Punto to replace the Palio in emerging markets. But Fiat Auto Managing Director Giancarlo Boschetti has included a 'new Palio' in a platform strategy presented to financial analysts.
Boschetti's new strategy calls for reducing the number of Fiat Auto platforms from 15 to nine by the end of the decade.
Besides the 'new Palio,' Boschetti also disclosed that Fiat would like to team with GM on replacements for the Fiat Stilo and fourth-generation Opel Astra, which aren't due for several years, and a successor to the Opel Agila.
A copy of Fiat Auto's detailed product plan obtained by Automotive News Europe earlier this year (see April 8 edition) did not include a new world car. The current Palio family was to be restyled in 2003, according to the document.
The restyling has now been canceled and the new world car family is scheduled to debut in 2006.
Fiat Auto invested more than E2.4 billion in the 178 world car program. The Palio hatchback was launched in April 1996 in Brazil. Later that year the Palio Weekend station wagon and Siena sedan versions debuted. The range was completed in 1998 with the Strada pickup.
The Palio hatchback and Weekend were restyled in September 2001 and a wider and longer car, the Albea, replaced the Siena in April. The Strada will be restyled later this year.
Fiat aimed to build 1 million 178s a year starting in 2000, but economic crises in several countries where the cars are made - Argentina, Brazil, Turkey and Poland - prevented Fiat from reaching the target. Fiat has built slightly over 2 million 178 models. The peak was in 1997, when 442,000 units were built.
Besides Argentina, Brazil, Turkey and Poland, the Palio family is built in China, India, Morocco and South Africa. Plans to produce it in Russia were abandoned in February after four years of negotiations with the Russian automaker AvtoGAZ. Market conditions were unfavorable.
The nine platforms Boschetti described for analysts include:
* GM's Epsilon platform, which will be used for the 2005 Fiat ¥ew Large and Lancia Lybra replacement.
* The Premium platform developed with Opel and Saab for the next Alfa Romeo 156 and Spider and a lower-medium-sized crossover.
* The New Small platform Fiat and Opel will jointly develop for the next-generation Punto and Corsa.
* Three new platforms that Boschetti said could be developed together with GM, including the 'new Palio;' a replacement for the Fiat Stilo and fourth-generation Opel Astra; and a platform to replace the Opel Agila. Fiat Auto already has its own new Mini platform, which will debut in autumn 2003 with the New Small car, that replaces both the Panda and Seicento.
* Three platforms Fiat currently builds in joint ventures with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen for full-size minivans and two light commercial vehicles, the Scudo and the Ducato.