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Fiat Punto joins Panda in Australian exodus

The decade-old Fiat Punto has joined the Panda in being quietly withdrawn from the Australian market, with the local division admitting its city-sized hatch never achieved the success it hoped for.

It’s the second time the third-generation Punto has been pulled from the local market. It was first offered between 2006 and 2010, and was most recently reintroduced in 2013, only to be axed now two years later.

Punto sales peaked last year when the company sold 898 across the country, though that number has fallen away to just 153 in the first eight months of this year.

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Fiat Chrysler Australia director of marketing Zac Loo confirmed that, as with Panda, the decision to “switch off” the Punto was finalised “in the past couple of months”.

Loo admitted the brand had hoped the Punto would catch on with more Australians, and said the market’s conservatism in that price band was partially to blame.

“We expected it could do more,” he said. “For all intents and purposes, on paper it looks like it should be a bigger [more successful] car than it was.

“The main issue with that car was that the type of consumer that purchases in that segment is price conscious, and generally when you’re price conscious you’re highly risk-averse.

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“You don’t really see it in other segments except B- and C-segment hatch. They’re just buying the same cars. There are two or three competitors and very little deviation, whereas you don’t see that in other segments where they’ve got more to spend and they’re not as attuned to what everyone else is buying.

“Punto was a tough one because no one really ever had any major issues with the car. Our dealers liked it. Our customers who bought them liked them. We just never found the numbers we wanted to get out of that car, and Panda was in the same boat, which is a shame.”

With Panda and Punto now gone, the Fiat range momentarily appears very humble, comprising only the 500 micro car and its sporty Abarth versions, and the Freemont people-mover.

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The brand will get a big boost in November/December when it launches the 500X compact crossover.

That will be followed by a facelift for the 500 range and a restructure of the Abarth line-up in the first quarter of 2016, while the arrival of the reborn Fiat 124 roadster in the third quarter of next year – which may only be offered here in hardcore Abarth form – promises to be the cherry on top.