The Fiat brand is synonymous with small cars. They are its bread and butter, the backbone of the company. So why is the Punto, the contender in one of the most profitable market segments so … 2005?
Because it basically is that, almost a 9 year old design. There were some attempts to give it a sales boost but both failed to make a significant impact. And that Punto Evo episode was just so bad, it had almost ruined the car altogether.
Still, you cannot say that Fiat hasn’t been trying. The latest redesign is spot on (it should have happened years ago, instead of that hideous 500-esque Evo) and Multiair engines are still a revelation. Even the design has aged gracefully and hasn’t lost its sparkle.
But all of its competitors are brand now at the moment and you cannot compete with pure showroom appeal they have. Look at the new Clio for example, it looks sensational.
My guess is that Fiat is trying to squeeze the last amount of juice out of it before they phase it out, a strategy they have been pursuing out for years with mixed results, to put it mildly. Now, they have the resources and the market is showing some signs of recovery so it is the perfect time to release a new model. And if Fiat would actually follow these steps, the car will be a no brainer success:
1) Design has to be bold and Italian
It may be a cliche, but Italian flair always goes well with customers. I’ve been saying for years that (some) Italian cars have lost its edge in design, which was one of most important selling points for them. I’d really like to see a bold, different car that would attract attention and even polarise opinions. People would expect something universally appealing but that approach should be left in the 00s where it belongs. Ford, for example, has been brave with the latest Fiesta and it had payed off big time. Same goes for the new Clio. Also, an evocative name like Pininfarina or Giugaro would be appreciated.
2) Cutting edge technology at affordable prices
Multiair engines are clearly the way to go and Fiat can gain economies of scale if they put them in basic models. The technology has been around for a while now so I can imagine that the costs have fallen down. Customers will always appreciate a new approach, rather than tried and tested. Multijet diesels also need a marketing boost and Fiat needs to inform their customers about advantages they give the consumer. Let us not forget, in Europe, low CO2 emissions mean a lower price in some countries and much lower insurance rates.
3) React as soon as possible
There is no doubt that the current Punto is now ready for retirement and the new model has to come out soon. But even smaller things need to be reevaluated. I hate to mention the Punto Evo again, but it really is a marketing example of how not to do it. Message boards hated it, the press hated it, consumers ignored it. So why keep it on the market for almost three years? In a time where an information gets around the world in a couple of milliseconds, there really is no excuse.
If Fiat listens to this (and some common sense), they should release a new model before 2015, when the Punto is planned.