Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is to halt production of Fiat cars in Italy and instead focus on building the models of its more premium brands in the country, according to a report by news agency Bloomberg.
The move is set to be officially announced at the start of June and will result in Panda production transferring to Poland where the Fiat 500, Abarth 595 and Lancia Ypsilon are currently produced. FCA's plants in Naples and Turin, which currently produce the Alfa Romeo Mito and the Fiat Panda, will be retooled to produce Maserati and Jeep models; the Turin factory already handles Maserati Levante production.
The Punto, currently produced in FCA’s Melfi plant, will be axed after a production run of over 13 years. The Mito, which was introduced in 2008, will also be culled. The Mito’s production line will be replaced by that of a second Maserati SUV.
This strategy will better allow FCA to implement hybrids into its lineup, according to sources close to the plan. The car giant will abandon diesel-engined models by 2022 and plans a range of performance hybrids at the top of its luxury car ranges. Its roll-out of electric vehicles will start with the Maserati Alfieri in 2020.
It’s believed that the plan plays to FCA’s strengths; a burgeoning catalogue of premium brands, and a booming SUV segment, while Fiat’s own-brand cars outside of the 500 remain relatively unloved by the public - hence the move to areas of production where they can be more profitably made.
Fiat’s UK sales for the year so far are down almost 30% compared with the same period last year. Jeep and Maserati sales are down by similar figures, which are above the average losses experienced by many makes amid the UK car industry downturn. Alfa Romeo’s sales in the UK are also down, but only by 11% - in line with the rest of the industry. The revitalised premium brand’s sales across the globe increased 60% in 2017 over the previous year.
The ambitious plan is thought to be the parting shot of outgoing chief executive Sergio Marchionne and is aimed at making FCA competitive on the global automotive stage. The 65-year-old retires from his position at the helm of the Italo-American car giant next year.
Autocar is awaiting comment from an FCA spokesperson.