Fiat Linea | Rise and Fall of the Only performance Sedan in India
There have been various foreign manufacturers that have tried to have a tight grip on the Indian market. Among these was an Italian marque, Fiat, that left the Indian market awe-struck for the first few years after its entrance. In early 2009, the Italian manufacturer launched its entry-level sedan, the Fiat Linea, which boasted the elegant Italian styling cues and spacious cabin.
“Fiat has kept its promise of making this an exciting year for its customers. The launch of the Fiat Linea is the first in the line of three launches that Fiat will undertake this year, the other two being Bravo and Grande Punto,” Said Fiat India CEO, Rajeev Kapoor.
The classy-looking Fiat Linea had a tremendous response upon launch. The Italian automaker was able to clock more than 10,000 units in the first 9 months. It sold a total of 3550 cars in the corresponding period the next year.
This milestone was celebrated by the brand and the CEO of Fiat India Automobiles Ltd, Mr. Rajeev Kapoor as he said,” Fiat is a brand that has been deeply rooted in the Indian psyche for many decades now.
Our dream is to see many Fiat vehicles flying on Indian roads. The milestone achieved by the Fiat Linea is a testimony that we are inching closer towards this goal.”
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The Fiat Linea was a major rival to the likes of Maruti's SX4, Fords' Fiesta, Hyundai Verna and the segment leader Honda City that were rigorous names in the Indian market back then.
Though Linea was able to gather an impressive number of buyers in the initial run, the competitors had deeper roots in the Indian automotive market.
Additionally, the lack of any new facelifts or updates left the car looking aged while the competition kept releasing new and updated models.
The Fiat Linea was offered with both diesel and petrol engine options. The petrol engine was a 1.3L FIRE engine that churned out 115Nm of peak torque. While the diesel engine was the popular 1.2L Multijet engine which churned out 203Nm of torque. Both engines were mashed with a 6-speed manual transmission.
The engine options were very refined, though the petrol engine felt underwhelming to the competition. The Multijet diesel engine that was featured in various other vehicles was known for its unbeaten reliability and long-lasting capability with minimum expenses on maintenance and repairs.
Coming on to the rivals, the Maruti SX4 borrowed the diesel engine from the Fiat Linea but also offered a 1.5L petrol engine and CNG powertrain options. The petrol engine was more powerful than the Linea and had the punch that the Italian sedan lacked.
The Hyundai Verna also offered a petrol engine that was similarly powerful as the Maruti SX4, while the diesel engine was known for its refinement and efficiency. The last but not least, the Ford Fiesta was available with three engine options, a diesel and two petrol engine options.
Was Fiat Linea Good or Bad
The Fiat Linea was launched to expand the Italian marque’s portfolio in India. Let’s go through the pros and cons that came along with the Linea sedan
- The decent exteriors were quite catchy, for the India roads that we're bored with Maruti SX4 and Hyundai Verna crowd, it was a great change. The sleek looks and the smooth lines combined to be quite attractive. The front had an innocent face but had a great appeal.
- The Fiat Linea packed sophisticated safety features, taking an edge over the rivals. The sedan included dual-stage front airbags with early crash sensors and 3-point ELR seatbelts with pre-tensioner and load limiter. This came along double crank prevention system, fire prevention system, central door locking, and anti-locking braking system.
- The interiors and the comfort were outstanding to the price tag. Plus the Fiat Linea was equipped with a plethora of features that included an automatic air conditioning system with rear AC vents, premium leather seats, an advanced instrumentation panel, power windows with one-touch operation, driver seat height adjuster, reverse parking sensor, remote keyless entry and other advanced features. It also had some practical and creature comforts like collapsible rear sun curtain, desmodromic foldable key, internal roof light with dimming effect, rear armrest with glove box and cup holders, rear defogger with timer, remote tailgate open, driver and passenger vanity mirror. The Fiat Linea also came with an outstanding Blue & Me in-car entertainment system and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel.
Well, to be honest, the Fiat lacked the appeal which the other brands had, and the next subheading would vastly explain why a prominent sedan got discontinued.
Why did it fail?
Before we get to the reasons for failure, let's hear what late Sergio Marchionne had told Autocar India at the 2017 Geneva Auto Show,” Fiat has had many chances in India and now it's Jeep’s turn.”
So a lot can be said by this minimal statement by a proficient businessman known for his turnarounds of the automakers' Fiat and Chrysler, his business acumen, and his outspoken and often frank approach, especially when dealing with unpalatable issues related to his companies and the automotive industry. According to him, FCA was hardly looking forward to reviving the sales by putting in any effort.
The brand started to phase out, now shifting the spotlight to Jeep, which was an FCA-owned brand. Fiat thus axed Fiat Linea, Punto, and its derivatives (such as the Abarth, Aventura, etc) in the country.
The Fiat lineup was already short of any major options, and they having a tough time making the existing models comply with stricter safety and emission regulations.
Even the minimum investment would have Fiat shell out USD 600 million (around 4,300 crores) for Fiat Linea and other vehicles. While the sales figure weren’t enough for the brand to have a confident vision of success after investing this huge amount.
Kevin Flynn, President & MD, Fiat India, stated that it is ‘evidently clear' that the Fiat brand has failed to successfully take on its rivals in the Indian market. However, the Jeep has been growing well and the company has realized the importance of the brand in India.
Many blame the arrogant attitude of the brand towards the Indian crowd, and the decision to not expand early. Anyhow, Fiat Linea and other vehicles were discontinued, but Fiat still offers the stacked up stock along.
Fiat Linea in the second-hand market
One can easily find a healthy Fiat Linea in the second-hand market. And Fiat fanboys can spend the price to own them without thinking about maintenance and repairs, as the brand still manufactures spare parts but in limited numbers.
With this, the Fiat Linea was taken out of production and the left stock can still be bought. But with rivals that are far from the Fiat Linea, it looks like a hasty, impromptu plan.
The Fiat Linea did offer some exciting elements and fought tough against the rivals. But the brand’s focus on Jeep’s entrance and flourishment in India took the lives of innocent Fiat Linea and others.