MINI & Smart Competitor To Be Priced From 169,800-228,800 Yuan (US$26,569-35,800)
China’s premium subcompact car market has been heating up for a few years now, with BMW’s MINI and Mercedes-Benz’s Smart looking to build on a segment dominated by mid-range models by the likes of Honda or lower-end domestics by Chery and BYD. Now, looking to take on MINI and Smart, Fiat this week officially launched its new 500 in China after several years in the European and North American markets. Apparently, the Italian automaker has been sufficiently enticed by the sales figures recorded by its premium rivals. As China Car Times reports today, the 1.4L Fiat 500 fits in the market right between the MINI Cooper and Smart FourTwo, priced between 169,800-228,800 yuan (US$26,569-35,800) and available in three different trims (“Fashion,” “Sport” and the most high-end, “Exclusive”). While all 500s in China will be imported for the time being, Fiat is currently working with a new local partner, Guangzhou Auto, to produce a locally made 500 within the next two to three years.
It’s priced competitively, it’s imported (always a plus in China’s premium market), and it’s cute. But what’s the Fiat 500′s target market in China?
Based on the marketing tack taken by both MINI and Smart in recent years, it seems fairly clear that Fiat will target the same young, “entry-level luxury” demographic. Considering they’re relatively new to the China market, and priced comparatively high for their petite size (particularly compared to their domestic Chinese counterparts), these premium subcompact automakers have been among the most creative, tapping both the digital sphere and China’s increasingly lucrative 18-24 market in an attempt to not only come across as hipper than their larger rivals but drive sales among a key emerging consumer group. This year, we’ve seen Smart, which entered the China market in spring 2010, debut a localized, limited-edition “Year of the Rabbit” model at the Shanghai Auto Show then cast NBA star Kobe Bryant in its “Big, in China” ad campaign. For its part, MINI created a China-only “Tattoo” edition MINI Cooper, sold exclusively online, and kicked off the second edition of its annual “Chinese Job” driving contest.
Though it only launched in China this week, Fiat tapped five young Chinese designers in an attempt to get the attention of new car buyers this past July, debuting an edition of 100 “First Edition” Fiat 500s, with street art-inspired custom exteriors, and has already been quite active on Sina Weibo. The brand currently has 9,617 Weibo fans — a good start, but still a ways to go to catch up with MINI’s 65,043 and Smart’s 213,263.