NEW DELHI - The Indian unit of troubled Italian carmaker Fiat Auto SpA said on Friday it expects its new diesel models launched two months ago to help reverse slowing sales in 2003.
A spokesman at Fiat India Pvt. Ltd., 97 percent owned by its Italian parent, told Reuters the automaker was aiming to sell 40,000 to 42,000 cars this calendar year. That is up 25 percent to 30 percent from the 32,111 units it sold in 2002.
The launch of new diesel versions of its Palio hatchback and Adventure also will help reverse the sales slowdown of the previous year, he added.
Fiat's Indian sales surged after the launch of its Palio compact car in September 2001 but slowed from an average of nearly 4,000 cars a month in the second quarter of 2002 to a little more than a 1,000 in the fourth quarter.
"In our opinion, we had grown too soon over the last one year," the spokesman said referring to the outburst of new models it introduced in 2002 -- three variants of the Palio and four versions of the Siena, Palio Adventure and Weekend sedans.
"The year 2003 will see us focusing on stability and growth, firstly by improving customer services and secondly through new products. And the response to the Palio diesel is a fair indicator that we are on the right track."
Fiat launched four diesel versions of the Palio hatchback and the Adventure sedan powered by a 1.9-liter engine in March, hoping to boost its share of a growing segment. Diesel cars are popular in India because it is about a third cheaper than gasoline.
Fiat, in India since 1997, has invested more than $500 million in the country where it makes the Palio hatchback, Siena and Palio Adventure and Weekend sedans.
Its main competitors in the Indian car market include the domestic units of Suzuki Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. and local firm Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co. Ltd.