New Fiat Argo may replace Punto globally

Today first pictures emerged of the new Fiat Argo, a model designed by Fiat’s Brazil division and intended to replace models based on the 12-year-old Punto in the Latin America market. However, it’s the prospect of the model being sold globally that is truly intriguing.

Wait, the Punto is still around?

Yes, it is, though it is no secret that it is way past its sell-by date – it came to market in 2005, and is now off the pace in most areas compared to its competitors. What’s surprising is that FCA let the model last this long without a replacement, especially given the impact this has had on the model’s sales: in 2016 it sold just 62.654 units, compared to 401.625 in 2006. So it’s clearly high time for a new model, but is the Argo the right car for the job?

So far little is known about the model, beyond the first (unofficial) pictures which show a moderately attractive, if rather conservative model. What is striking about the car is the similarity to the Fiat Tipo, the compact model Fiat began selling worldwide in 2016, and it’s the Tipo that holds the key to understanding Fiat’s possible plan with the Argo.

Tell me more about the Tipo

The new Tipo has been a quiet success for Fiat worldwide – its global sales in 2016 were around 150.000, of which 60.000 were in Europe and an additional 38.000 in Turkey (where it’s produced and is the overall best seller) as the Fiat Egea. While this may not seem like that much, it is important to note that the model is still being rolled out in new markets (also as the Dodge Neon in markets like Mexico and the Middle East), and its sales in March’17 in Europe were its best yet at over 15.000 units. At this pace, the Tipo may sell over 150.000 in Europe alone in 2017, which would be higher than its Bravo predecessor (which barely broke 90.000 in 2008, its best year) and close to the 175.000 units the model before that, Stilo, sold in 2002, its best year.

Fiat-Tipo-auto-sales-statistics-Europe

What makes the Tipo different to Fiat’s compact models that came before it is that it was designed purposely with global sales in mind, with stronger emphasis on simplicity, value and spaciousness, rather than an outright pursuit of matching the VW Golf and Ford Focus in style, sophistication and dynamism. In a way, the Tipo put the Fiat brand in Europe in a good market position: below Skoda, which in recent years moved more upmarket both in terms of quality and price, but above Dacia. 

So, what does this mean for the Argo?

If Fiat decides to sell the Argo globally, it will be because it believes the model can successfully follow in the footsteps of its larger brother. Some may view this move with disappointment, given that the Punto was once a stylish model that mixed it with the class best in Europe, and the Argo is designed to have the broadest possible appeal globally by being the least objectionable, rather than by having any particular standout features. In fact, I doubt the Argo will ever be able to come close to Punto’s past success: the first generation sold 581.070 in 1997, the second sold 550.639 in 2002, while the third still sold over 400.000 in 2006. But if the Argo can bring in over 100.000 sales in a year in Europe, it may be a reasonable money-maker for Fiat given its presumed low cost of production and R&D budget that is spread across all global markets. Whether that’s the kind of carmaker Fiat wants to be in Europe is a different topic that deserves its own discussion…

About Krzysztof Wozniak

Kriss grew up in Poland reading German car magazines, before moving to England and graduating to the British magazines, which he still considers the best in the world and continues reading them after he'd moved to the US. In college he promised himself he's buy himself a used Porsche before he turned 30 (not to be accused of having a mid-life crisis), but instead family needs dictated a Subaru Outback. Still waiting for that perfect moment to buy a used 2008-ish Cayman...
You can find all his articles Here.

Comments

  1. Dudy Cohen says:

    I believe the Tipo is sold also under the Dodge brand as the new Neon.
    Any idea if FCA plan to expend this nameplate as well to other regions?

  2. Krzysztof Wozniak says:

    @Dudy – you are correct, the Tipo is sold in Mexico as the Dodge Neon. What’s more, there have been rumors that FCA will bring that rebranded model to the US and Canadian markets as well, though that was already a year ago, and FCA never confirmed this plan at the time. The “authority” that is Wikipedia suggests that in early 2017 this plan was in fact confirmed, but that claim has no citation so I think you need to take it with a big grain of salt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_Tipo_(2015)

    • NaBUru38 says:

      Wikipedia isn’t an authority, rules are that editors must use reliable sources. Some sources are more reliable than others. And some editors refuse to mention sources at all.

  3. Pedro says:

    I was pleasantly surprised with the Argo because I was preparing myself for an aberration like the Fiat Mobi (mini-car in the brasilian market). This actually looks moderately atractive and has certain design elements that remeber the old Fiat 127.
    I hope they introduce this car in Europe (it’s in their planned schedule but they never stick to those).

    Priced below the Tipo, the Argo would probably become a segment leader.

  4. toby2449 says:

    C’mon Fiat, replace the Punto with something, anything at all!!! The Argo looks good, this could work in Europe. Its shocking that Fiat has let its best seller, a car which sold 400k a year in its heyday, slump to an old also ran in one of the most important segments in Europe, certainly one of the worst decisions from the current management team.
    I love the new Tipo, i thought initially it was dull, but having seen quite a few now it actually looks much better in the flesh. I owned a bravo, & it was a hugely underrated motor, had it worn any other badge it would have sold in huge numbers! I think Fiat’s decision to tell the Tipo as a “budget” motor has certainly paid off. Now Fiat need to start churning out new cars, new Panda etc…. Great article BTW. Love the website!

  5. charles says:

    This car looks good,buy why not keep the Punto name?. I am a FCA fan, and wish them all the best,and I hope they never merge with anyone,but try to buy someone.May be Suzuki,Mitsubishi,Subaru or Mazda.

  6. For what its worth, ( not a lot ) Sergio Marchione has said in the past that Fiat doesn’t need a Punto replacement in Europe, because the Tipo is priced like a B segment car ( it kinda is ).

    Personally, i believe there’s enough space in the EU line up between the Panda and the Tipo, but the Argo comes across as a Fiat version of the old gen Nissan Micra, or a Mitsu Space Star. In Brasil, it will rival cars like the Ford Ka+ or the Renault/Dacia Sandero. Is that really the car Fiat wants/needs to sell in Europe?

    • I’m sorry, but just to clarify my point, for the Argo to fit into Fiats EU lineup it would have to be priced at around 13/14k€, between the Panda ( 10/11k ) and the Tipo ( 16/17k ).

      The Ka+ starts at 10k. The Sandero at 8k :/

      • Krzysztof Wozniak says:

        @tuga – I actually think the Argo could just about fit above the Panda, after all it’s a different sort of car – much larger on the outside, less city-oriented. I believe the price proximity to the Panda does not mean the Argo would be an unnecessary model in the Fiat line-up

    • Raimundo says:

      Brasil, it will rival cars like New Fiesta, 208, C3, next Polo, HB20, Ônix LT, Fox. The Fiat Uno rivals Ka and Sandero low price. Sandero more expensive, yes, it rivals Argo.

  7. @Krzysztof – Hummm… i dunno. I think pricing is a main selling point for the Panda. If you have the two side by side in a dealer with similar prices, i believe most people would go for the larger ( but still small enough for city life ) Argo. It would all depend on which car would be more profitable for them ( FCA ), i can’t see them both staying in the line up.

  8. Pedro says:

    The Panda sells more than 80% of its volume in Italy. It does not sell well in Europe even with its price.
    Even if the Argo would be priced close to it, if it sold more on other european countries than in Europe it would be a driver for sales growth in most of Europe instead of depending on the domestic market. Much like the Tipo and 500X sell around 50% of their volume outside of Italy.

    So I don’t think Fiat has to worry about the Argo canibalizing the Panda. They actually need this car to regain a foothold in the B-segment in all of Europe.
    Also, the Ka+ is much shorter than the Argo (and the brasilian media points him as a competitor to the Fiesta and Onyx).
    Right now, beyond the 500 Fiat needs to start from the bottom. That means pricing just above Dacia. They allowed the koreans and Skoda to occupy their niche.

  9. Losange says:

    Never thought to be reading the words ‘style’, ‘sophistication’ and ‘dynamism’ in the same sentence as Ford (Focus), let alone VW (Golf).

    Fiat could definitely sell the Argo in Europe. They are the specialists in (affordable) small cars. I don’t like its design, but looking at the ongoing success of Dacia and the introduction of below average cars like the Ford Ka and Seat Toledo/Skoda Rapid (i.e. VW Santana), there is plenty more room in the budget segment.

  10. Federico / Milano says:

    I would say the new strategy of FCA is preparing a car range with no frills, solid, reliable … with all it takes and nothing more.
    This … waiting for the next deep economic depression which is announced within the next year.
    Many rich people will still have money enough for Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo … most people will be looking for reliable cars at an affordable price … but not obsolete and dull as Dacia models.

  11. Mick - Dublin says:

    I am not sure that http://www.argotractors.com/ would be impressed with the name for Europe.
    I presume it will use Firefly engines, the manufacturing plant for which is being built in Tychy, Poland.
    Do you know which platform it will sit upon? The Small Wide as used in the 500L and Tipo or something new and lighter?
    The interesting issue is where it will be built. Sergio has said it is not economic to build value B-Segment cars in Italy. The sliding sales may soften resistance to transfer of production from Italy.
    Serbia, Poland or Turkey?

  12. NaBUru38 says:

    Argo is a holding company, not a commercial brand.

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