Gone but not Forgotten Series – Fiat Punto
The Punto was actually the worldwide successor of the Uno in Fiat’s portfolio. Fiat had launched the Punto nameplate globally in the year 1993. Internally code-named Project 176, the Punto was announced in September 1993 as a replacement for the ageing Fiat Uno and was finally launched in the end of 1993 in the global markets. The Fiat Punto was voted European Car of the Year for 1995, defeating rival Volkswagen Polo! Punto was designed by one of the world’s most iconic car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro – He had designed models in brands like Alpha Romeo, Maserati, VW, Lamborghini & even Ferrari. Giugiaro is widely famous for designing the DMC DeLorean which was notable in its own time for its unique design and was also featured in the Hollywood Blockbuster Series Back to the Future.
India actually received the third generation Punto; also known as the Grande Punto. The car was based from the GM Fiat Small platform – Developed from 2002 in Italy, by Ulrich Schmalohr the engineer head of Opel (subsidiary of General Motors) and Giorgio Cornacchia head-project of Fiat Auto the Small platform was designed to be adaptable for Fiat Group and General Motors small cars. Even the Opel Corsa D was developed from the same platform. The Grande Punto was launched in India during the Delhi Auto Expo in January 2008, with sales starting in June 2009. The Punto was manufactured by the Fiat Tata Motors joint venture Fiat India Automobiles Ltd (FIAL) in a new plant in Ranjangaon, Maharashtra.
We present the reasons why the Fiat Punto makes an entry in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series –
Punto was the best selling model in the Fiat India’s Lineup. Fiat had sold 72,235 units in the 10 years of the lifecycle of the model.
Timeless Design – Even as on date Punto stands out as one of the best looking hatchback on the road! No wonder it was designed by the legendary Giugiaro. The car’s nose, headlights and front grill look reminiscent of the Maserati Coupé (both were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign).
Solid Build Quality – The car at its time had received 5 star safety ratings in the Euro NCAP and felt the sturdiest vehicle in its category. Still the Punto customers go gaga about Punto’s solid build and paint quality levels.
Calibrated Handling – The car had set new benchmarks in terms of ride quality, high speed dynamics and overall handling. It was nothing but an enthusiasts dream!
Excellent Steering Feedback – The Punto was one of last small cars to be equipped with a hydraulic power steering. The steering was brilliant to use and gel well with the ride and handling prowess that the car possessed.
Came with National Diesel Engine of India – Fiat was the pioneer of 1.3L Multijet diesel engine and the one in Punto developed 74 bhp Power and 197 Nm of Torque.
An Enthusiasts first choice – Punto was one of the first cars to give importance on the overall driving pleasure and ride quality. Even Fiat marketed the Punto to be crafted for a True Fan!
The model was surely a savior for Fiat India – The car contributed to 51% of Fiat’s sales in India during its timeline!
Fiat later launched various iterations/updates – namely the Punto Evo and the Avventura –
The Punto + Evo + Avventura’s combined sales was 72,235 units
Even the Abarth version of the Punto was launched in Jan 2016 and it could sell 357 units in its lifetime.
Also though Linea was launched before Punto in India; It was developed from the Punto platform!
Let us look at the Punto’s Sales Trend through its years of existence in the Indian market –
The Punto had a promising start and sold 9,674 units in the first year of its launch.
Punto’s sales increased in the second year and crossed 10k sales mark in 2010. It continued to cross 10k sales in 2011; but post that could never achieve the feat.
Do note that Punto was sold in Tata showrooms in its initial days. The showroom staff always had a dilemma to pitch Fiat’s Punto or Tata’s Vista! The inhouse clash actually affected both the brands.
The sales did improve in 2014 when the Evo was launched and this time in a dedicated Fiat Showroom.
However; the sales couldn’t stabilize and the volumes fell owing to :
Low Resale Value
Poor Service Experience
Higher Cost of Maintenance & Reliability Concerns
Lower Network Availability
Anyhow with the death of Punto; Fiat brand too takes an exit from the Indian Market. All efforts from FCA is to focus on Jeep marque for India.
Punto made an impact for pioneering the ‘hot hatch’ culture in India. The Indian consumer was traditionally devoid of performance oriented, good looking and capable hatches – Fiat broke the mould and launched the Punto in the Indian market. Punto was always an enthusiasts car and shall always be remembered as one!