MATILDA FRANCES (with reports from FEMI OWOEYE)
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]igerian automobile marketing sector is set to hot up. Fiat has, once again, hoisted its flag on Nigerian soil with an ultimate aim of claiming a significant chunk of the nation’s car market share, starting with the C-Segment.
Its handler and main dealer in Nigeria, Weststar Associates Limited, had done it before in the luxury segment. So it is not an overstatement to say that competitors have every reason to have sleepless night and possibly indigestion, by the look of it.
The launch of the Tipo held last Thursday, to us at Motoring World, was an eye-opener and enough reason for us to warm up, once again, for a more exciting motoring reporting, as we experienced in the 90s and early 2000, even before the putting together of the yet-to-become-law new auto policy.
Without any special notice, Weststar’s management are willing to release the car for an independent media test-drive, reminder of the arrival of Mercedes-Benz M-Class about two decades ago.
Last week’s unveil of Tipo was done amidst an unusual atmosphere. Of course, we know that Italians like girls with long legs and cars that are sexy. And at Tipo launch, we got both.
Notwithstanding, the Weststar’s showroom venue of the launch was filled with an ambience devoid of the usual razzmatazz, horror movie-like kind of scene, you would normally witness at a new car launch in the country. At least, there was no smoke. You could see it from beginning to the end.
There was no Saxophonist. No acrobatic displayer. No riddles and jokes teller. Simple opening address, Tipo’s unveil, media inspection and photographing and question and answer session. But deep beyond the surface, there were more.
The background music played from the far right corner of the launch venue was simple reggae bit, representing mass appeal. Shortly before the launch kicked-off, Stavros Diamantidis, General Manager, FCA group, Weststar Associates Limited, whom, in Motoring World’s Newsroom, was describe as “The face of Fiat”, strolled around in an aura of confidence, radiating the poise likened to that of a commander of ancient Roman Soldiers, after a battle trumpet had sounded (Of course, the photograph, which accompanied the first ever press release announcing the proposed launch of the car carried only his face and Fiat logo).
A line of his responses to media questions speaks volumes. On what gave the company an assurance of success in a market already dominated by the likes of top-quality Toyota Corolla as well as locally assembled Kia Cerato and Hyundai i30, among others, he said Nigerians have been served with the same brands over the years and need something different.
“And I believe Nigerians like to try something different,” he said, adding, “especially a brand like Fiat that gives more in terms of quality for less.”
Also Diamantidis recalled that the passenger car sales in Nigeria dropped significantly in the first quarter, therefore, hinting that Fiat is out to fill the gap.
Making his opening remark, the Managing Director of Weststar,
Mr. Mirko Plath, wore a pair of glasses, depicting the posture of a wise aged man, loaded with tonnes of life experience. Although he made a cheeky comment about his pair of glasses, truly, Weststar and Plath have been on ground for long. They know Nigeria and Nigerians, especially lovers of luxury automobiles know them.
Aside telling the historical background of Fiat, Plath’s main message is that the brand is ready for serious business.
According to him, Fiat has concluded plans to set up an assembly plant in Nigeria, adding that the plant and kits are even ready.
“Fiat is finally here,” he enthused. “It is no longer a dream, it is a reality! This Italian brand promises to match the superior standards set by all the other brands we represent here in Nigeria.”
And why is Fiat so much confident of success, especially in a depressed economy hosting already established brands?
Motoring World gathered that Fiat’s weapons shall include reputation, quality, customer service and price.
Upon inspecting the Tipo, Motoring World editors could see a look of a prowling menace, owner of the road; typical of Italian styling with dark good looks and a sense of “I am-in-the-right-place”, sleek in bred style that shouts, “Italian Glamour.”
But from all indications, to Weststar management, Tipo is being positioned in Nigeria not only as a car of the people and for the people, but an automobile to enjoy, as a little bit of continent parked in your driveway.
Fiat Tipo version now selling in Nigeria is powered by 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to 6-speed automatic gear box.
Safety and Security
It comes with central locking, Rough Road suspension kit, tyre pressure monitoring system, vehicle Dynamic Control+Anti-skid System and dual front Airbags as standard.
As optional extras, buyers of Tipo could also have Rear View parking camera, Electronic Roll Mitigation, ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution, Front side airbags and Head Dual Curtain Airbags, making total of six airbags.
The car comes with standard equipments, including Climate Control Air-conditioning and Bad fuel injection System (91RON) and U-Connect 431 with Bluetooth-USB + AUX. While 4 power windows, Power External Rear View Mirrors, U-Connect 5” Touch Screen with Bluetooth as well as USB Jack port and steering wheel switch + AUX are also available as optional extras.
And talking about price, a Fiat Tipo with standard equipment sells for N8.9 Million with manufacturer’s warrantee of 2-years or 60,000KM equivalent.
Possibly, watch this space. Excuse me, while I put my Italian-made shoes on.
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