Fiat Chrysler Launches 500-Based SUV As Investors Relish FCA Prospects – Forbes

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2014

TURIN, Italy – As we remind ourselves that FCA is really Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the first results of the marriage are being launched on markets around the world.

Last March at the Geneva Car Show, Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep launched the new little Renegade SUV.  At the Balocco testing grounds close to Turin, Italy this month, Fiat unveiled the 500X, which is made at the same factory in Melfi, central Italy, and shares about 40 per cent of the components with the Renegade. The 500X looks like a muscled up 500 mini car, and the ad campaign in some markets makes use of a well-known and some might say risqué legal drug. The ad shows a Viagra pill somehow bouncing into the fuel tank of a delicate little 500 two-door city car, which then instantly bulks up into a macho, snarling four-door off-roader.

Fiat 500X at the launch in Turin, Italy

Fiat 500X at the launch in Turin, Italy

In Europe, the 500X will be powered by engines ranging from a 1.6 liter 110 hp gasoline motor through a 140 hp 2.0 liter diesel to a 170 hp turbo-charged gas power-plant. Fiat is especially proud of its 9-speed automatic gearbox option, inherited from another FCA product, the Chrysler 200. Cheaper versions have front-wheel drive. Pricier ones are all-wheel drive. In Europe, prices start at close to $22,900, after taxes. The 500X is more of a utility, family vehicle with basic off-road ability, while the Renegade offers a hard-core ability to roam the wild.

Pierluigi Bellini, Milan-based analyst with IHS IHS Auto, said the 500X and Renegade will be competing in the booming small SUV market led in Europe first by the bigger Nissan Qashqai and now the smaller Nissan Juke. Other strong competitors are the Peugeot Peugeot 2008, Renault Renault Captur, VW’s Skoda Yeti and BMW’s Mini Countryman.

“This segment is one of the fastest growing we have seen in years (in Europe) pioneered by Nissan, although Fiat and Jeep are coming to it late. The cars look good and I think they will sell nice volumes – the 500X mostly in Europe, the Renegade will be sold all around the world,” Bellini said.

IHS Auto said the Jeep will reach peak volume of around 160,000 a year by 2017, with North America the biggest market with 65,000. There will be decent sales in China and South America, and some in Europe. The 500X will peak at close to 110,000 a year, with Europe the biggest market at around 80,000, some in North America. Sales start in Europe in the first quarter of 2015, in the U.S. in the following quarter.

FCA excited stock markets with its recent recapitalization plan, which included the spin-off of Ferrari, the storied upmarket sports car maker. Investors have been giving FCA the once-over and like what they see, mainly thanks to the  prospects for Jeep’s SUVs, Ram’s pickups, and Maserati’s exotic sports cars. The sagging Italian affordable sports car maker Alfa Romeo might be a lost cause though.

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