28.03.2011 THE FIAT PALIO RETURNS TO LIFE IN CHINA

ZOYTE AUTO FIAT PALIO 2011
ZOYTE AUTO FIAT PALIO 2011
ZOYTE AUTO FIAT PALIO 2011
ZOYTE AUTO FIAT PALIO 2011

Now badged as a Zoyte, the Palio is set to go back into production in China with new front and rear clips, a new interior and dashboard and now fitted with 1.3- and 1.5-litre Mitsubishi engines.

ZOYTE AUTO L SERIES LANCIA LYBRA

Zoyte's raid on Fiat Group production lines includes the Lancia Lybra D-segment sedan and station wagon which the carmaker hopes will in the future also go on to underpin its second-generation L-series after undergoing a comprehensive redesign.

The Fiat Palio lives on in China: just over a decade after it was first launched, and a couple of years after it went out of production, the 'world car' is back with a facelift and new engines but now built and sold as a Zoyte.

When Fiat's Chinese joint venture with Nanjing Auto collapsed, upstart carmaker Zoyte Auto bought the redundant production lines and intellectual property and with a thorough reworking the Palio is set to go back into production in China with new front and rear clips, a new interior and dashboard and now fitted with 1.3- and 1.5-litre Mitsubishi engines. Zoyte Auto was only set up in 2005 and in 2009 beefed up capacity by buying Jiangnan Auto. Zoyte builds China's cheapest car, which is based on the Suzuki Alto, and has also joined the ranks offering an EV.

The B-segment Palio hatchback was developed by Fiat as its first "global car", through the "Project 178 World Car" initiative. The project was designed and engineered in Brazil, styled by the IDEA institute, and launched in 1996. It quickly spawned a "family" of derivatives that comprise of the Siena (sedan), Palio Weekend (estate) and Strada (pick-up). The "World Car" has been sold across the world and built in countries including Argentina, Turkey, South Africa, Poland, Egypt and India.

The Palio arrived in China in 2002 as the key model in the Nanjing Fiat joint venture, joined by the Siena and Strada. However Nanjing Fiat struggled to make an impact in the Chinese market, partly due to Fiat's lack of understanding of the country and the preference of Chinese consumers as well as a less than fulsome commitment, and then by Nanjing Auto's focus on its purchase of the assets of failed UK carmaker MG Rover and the relaunch of these brands in China and abroad. Nanjing Fiat also spawned a unique derivative of the "World Car": the Perla, a locally-developed attempt to take the Siena sedan upmarket. The Nanjing Fiat JV collapsed in 2007 and Fiat has now joined forces in a new joint venture with Guangzhou Auto.

Zoyte Auto, one of the newest names on the Chinese automotive scene, bought the assets of Nanjing Fiat, including the "Project 178 World Car" line, and set about updating the redundant Fiat models to make them more relevant to Chinese buyers as part of its ambitious strategy to ramp up production. As well as the Palio, Zoyte Auto will revive the Strada, to be called the "S Series", while it has also bought the Italian lines of the Fiat Multipla which was discontinued last year. Dubbed as the "M Series", Zoyte has been already building the Multipla from CKD kits since 2009 but is now installing the production lines. The Chinese carmaker has also acquired the Turkish lines of the last-generation DoblÚ LCV and this will be added to the line-up this year as the Zoyte D Series.

The final model in Zoyte's raid on Fiat Group production lines is the Lancia Lybra D-segment sedan and station wagon. Dubbed the L Series, in the future Zoyte hopes it will also go on to underpin a new model after undergoing a comprehensive redesign.
 

© 2011 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed