NEW FIAT BAKKIE: The new (and yet unnamed) Fiat-badged Mitsubishi bakkie is to help turnaround Fiat’s loss-making divisions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Image: Fiat
Cape Town - Fiat South Africa plans to release a new medium-size double-cab bakkie in South Africa in 2016, taking on best-selling local stalwarts such as Toyota’s Hilux and the Ford Ranger in the highly competitive local bakkie market.
At first glance it seems obvious this must be the Fiat Toro (bull in Italian) bakkie, recently revealed in official photos from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in Latin America, but actually (and yes, we were also deceived) it isn’t…
How come? Well, the release by Fiat SA, also the local importer of Fiat Professional light commercial vehicles, should be read in conjunction with a simultaneous statement by Mitsubishi Motors on its new Triton, which is also SA-bound.
In this release Mitsubishi Motors South Africa (MMSA) chief operations officer Wynand Pretorius confirms the next-generation Triton bakkie range will be available in Southern African markets from mid-2016.
According to Pretorius this fifth-generation Mitsubishi bakkie is by far the most advanced commercial vehicle from the automaker to date.
What he failed to mention was that Mitsubishi Motors and Fiat in September 2014 has reached an agreement whereby the sixth largest Japanese vehicle manufacture will produce a new bakkie for Fiat from 2016.
In a deal to boost the Italian automaker's commercial vehicle sales and raise output at the Japanese company's plant in Thailand the two companies teamed up to develop and manufacture a bakkie supplied by Mitsubishi based on its Triton, or L200.
The aim with the new (and yet unnamed) Fiat-badged Mitsubishi bakkie is to help turnaround Fiat’s loss-making divisions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while assisting the Japanese automaker to maintain production levels at its plant in Thailand.
According to the agreement Mitsubishi will supply Fiat with 150 000 to 170 000 new bakkies over six years.
The deal also dates back to the 2005 Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance joint venture (JV) between Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai, gifting Fiat access to among others Mitsubishi’s new-generation 2.4 litre turbo-diesel engine.
The lightweight engine produces 133kW/430Nm of torque and can be paired with a five-speed manual or five-speed auto gearbox and a 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrain with a version if Mitsubishi’s Super Select II 4WD system.
According to Johan Cloete, newly appointed project manager for Fiat LCV development, the “yet-to-be-named one-ton bakkie” will be offered “in single or double-cab variants and powered by petrol or diesel engines” and is set for introduction during the first half of 2016.
Officially launched next week
Due to be officially launched at the Dubai Motor Show later in November, the new bakkie will probably have Cherokee type headlights, but for the rest will be virtually indistinguishable from its Mitsubishi counterpart.
Like the new Triton, the new Fiat bakkie will face stiff competition from models such as the Hilux, Ranger, Isuzu KB, VW Amarok, Nissan Navara and Mazda BT-50. No name or pricing has been announced yet.
The bakkie will follow in the tyre-tracks of the half-ton Fiat Strada sold locally until 2012. It will also extend the Fiat Professional vehicle range that includes the Doblo, Fiorino and Ducato vans, and the Ducato minibus and motorhome chassis-cabs.
Cloete said: "We are serious about the future viability of the Fiat Professional brand in South Africa and believe its presence can be strengthened through the LCV development programme, including the new pick-up."
Given the presence in the market of some of the country’s top-selling model names it will be interesting to see how the new Fiat one-ton bakkie is accepted locally.
Perhaps it would have been better to tackle the market with an exclusively Fiat and FCA designed product like the Toro, rather than a Japanese designed and developed Fiat-badged product.
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