BEIJING -- Fiat China boss Jack Cheng is convinced the Italian automaker has learned from its past mistakes here. He predicts Fiat will find success in its third bid to gain a foothold in the world's largest car market because of products such as the new Viaggio.
Cheng says the Viaggio is "an Alfa Romeo Giulietta you can buy at a Fiat price."
The Viaggio actually is a reworked version of the Dodge Dart, which is based on the Giulietta, and the price has not been announced. The bottom line is that the Viaggio is a crucial first test for GAC Fiat Automobile, the 50-50 joint venture between Fiat and China's Guangzhou Automobile Group.
The joint venture will start building the Viaggio, which means "journey" in Italian, on June 28 at a new plant in the Changsha Economic Zone in Hunan province.
Fiat plans to sell 20,000 Viaggios this year and 100,000 in 2013. In 2011, Fiat brand sold fewer than 2,000 vehicles in China.
Fiat is getting started at a tough time in China. After years of double-digit growth in new-car sales, demand is weakening because of a slowing economy and higher fuel prices. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers still says new-car sales will rise 8 percent this year, but it has kept open the possibility that the figure could be lower.