Fiat Auto are taking a completely different approach to their past methods of bringing a new model to the market with the new Stilo and 500, both key near-future models for the carmaker, said Fiat Brand & Commercial CEO Luca De Meo last week.

"We are trying to do everything that is contrary to what we did with the Stilo," he told the Reuters news agency during an awards ceremony held last week. Launched in late 2001 the C-segment Stilo model made no ground in a competitive marketplace, failing to captivate buyers in the way that its predecessors, the Bravo/Brava and the Tipo were able to do. Marketed as a direct rival to the VW Golf, the Stilo model range offered none of the Italian flair that buyers demanded, and initially struggled with pricing and reliability. The new model will be built around the well-regarded 'Compact' floorpan, architecture which will be shared by the forthcoming Alfa 149 (which will replace the Alfa 147) and Lancia's new C-segment contender which has been referred to as the 'new Delta', and possibly by other carmakers if on-going negotiations prove fruitful. Indeed, the long term future of Fiat will see a reduction in the number of platforms used throughout the range, with a focus on fully exploiting component sharing. 

Physical development of the Compact platform has long been underway, with the architecture appearing under a variety of cars. One of the earlier projects from the Fiat Auto range using this platform was the Alfa Romeo Project 921 "Kamal", of which prototypes demonstrated its fantastic handling abilities in both front and also all-wheel-drive configuration. 

The Austrian based Magna-Steyr engineering company are responsible for the development of the Fiat Stilo replacement, and it is claimed that the the car is now in a production ready state. Surprisingly no prototype vehicles have been caught on camera, a trait which lends to the level of professionalism and confidentiality offered by the company. It is rumoured that a surprise appearance of the car may take place in Autumn this year at the Paris show. The new Stilo will be a true Italian design, with sumptuous styling reflecting an exciting and tasteful product for a wide group of buyers.  

De Meo also discussed proposals for the new Fiat 500. Due to be launched next autumn this subcompact model will be based on the Panda floorpan and built at the Tychy plant in Poland as part of a new joint venture with Ford Europe who will use their version to replace the ageing current-generation Ka model range. This joint venture has proved to be extremely successful, with the project characterised by halved development costs.


Launched in late 2001 the C-segment Fiat Stilo model range (above: the Stilo Multiwagon) made no ground in a competitive marketplace, failing to captivate buyers in the way that its predecessors, the Bravo/Brava and the Tipo were able to do.


This official Fiat Centro Stile sketch offers pointers towards the new Stilo model incorporating 'family' styling cues drawn from the very well received Grande Punto.

A foam model proposal for Progetto 940, the Alfa Romeo 149 replacement which will share the "Compact" platform with the Stilo replacement.

With '500 days' to go until the launch of the trendy Trepiuno inspired new 500, Fiat rolled out a dedicated website, www.fiat500.com, which invites visitors to customise their own model on-line, submitting a variety styling proposals that Fiat will collect and analyse. In its first fortnight the site received 2.5 million hits and Fiat has collected 40,000 proposals to study. "People want to contribute," said De Meo, who compared the new website to Linux, the computer operating system software which has a free source code that is open to be adapted by the individual user. 

"Before, we used a top-down approach, telling people, so to speak, what we thought was best," Reuters also reported De Meo as saying during the presentation of the Dante Giacosa award, which is named after the engineer who was the driving force behind the original Fiat 500 - a car that changed Italy, "but we've decided to change that around," added De Meo. This year the prestigious award went to Mauro Pierallini who was in charge of developing the current Panda model. De Meo was also dismissive of the recent drop in Fiat's share price: "We will keep expanding and maintain our volumes," he said. With the runaway sales success of the Grande Punto model so far this year, Fiat Auto are banking on turning out two further new hits with the new Stilo and 500 next year.

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