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We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #329 tonight, and you can drop us your questions and comments via our Q&A module below. Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so, and if you want to take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.
Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #329
Subcompact sales slump, yet again
Naturally, you'd expect a massive automaker like Fiat to have an in-depth plan to exit the current European-market doldrums, and you'd expect that plan to include plenty of new vehicles to attract those precious buyers that still remain despite the financial downturn. And you'd be right, though Fiat does seem to have a few unexpected twists up its corporate sleeve.
Perhaps the biggest shocker is a report that Fiat will completely drop the Punto, a car with mass-market appeal aimed at small-car buyers cross-shopping the popular Volkswagen Polo. Its replacement will be a five-door Fiat 500 aimed at upmarket buyers (sounds awfully similar to the 500L) that will be built in Poland. Lower-end customers will reportedly be served by variants of the Fiat Panda.
Borrowing a page from the BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen playbook, reports Automotive News, Fiat is said to have plans to reignite production at its Italian factories by retooling them to build high-end vehicles from Maserati and Alfa Romeo. These will be marketed as premium products, built by skilled Italian workers (who are paid wages that are 75-percent higher than those building Fiats in Poland), and will be sold around the world.
Last year when Maserati revealed a plan to sell 50,000 units globally by 2015, it seemed like a pretty steep goal for an automaker that had sold just 6,300 units for the entire year. It turns out that goal may be a little on the conservative side. Through September, Automotive News Europe says the Italian automaker has already racked up 22,500 orders mainly on the backs of the redesigned Quattroporte and the all-new Ghibli, and there are still more new products in the pipeline.
Back in August, we heard that demand in China was playing a strong role in Maserati's big numbers in 2013, and this doesn't even include the upcoming Levante SUV, which Maserati CEO Harald Wester expects to add as many as 25,000 units to the mix when it goes on sale in 2015. According to the ANE report, the Quattroporte is still the most popular model with almost 10,000 orders so far this year, while the smaller and more affordable Ghibli is performing quite well with almost 8,000 orders; the aging, but soon-to-be-replaced, GranTurismo models have about 5,000 orders.