"We need to be present [in that market segment] and Chrysler is going to give us what we need [to do that]," Sergio Cravero, Fiat’s head of product planning, said in a recent interview.
The new Fiat SUV, which does not have a name yet, will be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March and will be brought to market a few months from then. The Italian company will also be introducing the 300C and Grand Voyager at the same show.
Fiat hopes to make larger profits from the SUV market than it can in its current ones. The new Fiat crossover is expected to be a direct competitor to the Volkswagen Touareg and Mitsubishi Pajero. The Italians don’t have that much experience in making such a vehicle, as they are best known for manufacturing small city cars like the Panda and 500.
"Fiat became very good at making small cars at the expense of weakening its ability to compete with bigger models," according to Giorgio Elefante, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory SpA in Italy.
The SUV segment's share (of the overall European auto industry) is expected to grow to 8.7 percent by 2014 from 8.5 percent in 2009. Fiat hopes to increase its share of the European SUV market segment to 6.8 percent by 2014, from just 1.6 percent in 2009, helped by SUVs under its Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands, and more help from Chrysler.