Remember the Fiat Viaggio, the Dodge Dart clone that was supposed to be the brand’s breakthrough product in China? The compact sedan has missed its sales targets by as much as 60 percent, and now Fiat is hoping that local production of the Jeep Cherokee can help fill some of their plant’s capacity and capitalize on China’s insatiable demand for crossovers.
The Viaggio is currently built at a factory in China, but the vehicle isn’t selling. With only 40,000 units sold this year and 54,000 units projected for 2014, the Viaggio is far off its targets of 100,000 units and 200,000 units for each respective year.
The hope is that production of the Cherokee, which is built on the same architecture as the Viaggio, can be added to help the factory run at capacity. Fiat has traditionally lagged behind bigger players like GM and Volkswagen in China, with the two brands aiming to deliver roughly 3 million cars in China this year, outselling Fiat by a ratio of 15 to 1. Asia accounted for just 4 percent of Fiat’s 3.34 million deliveries through September.
Prevailing wisdom suggests that Fiat is a non-starter in China, with prospects for a mainstream volume brand looking rather grim in an already saturated market. But Jeep is considered to be an aspirational brand with desirable products like the Wrangler, as well as the Cherokee and a forthcoming B-segment crossover that should play well with Chinese consumers.