Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Fiat Linea

The much awaited Fiat Linea based on the grand Punto platform has finally arrived. Much to the relief of eager customers, who have booked the cars even before the prices have been announced- such is the anticipation with which the car has been received. Touted as competition to the Fiesta, SX4, Verna and Honda City G3 the Linea beats them with its commanding presence and feature packed offering.

The Linea comes to India after a hiatus of almost 6 years with no new vehicle launches by Fiat India, so the excitement of a new product is palpable. With the Palio launch in 2002, with the upgrades in 2003, and the Stile launch in 2005 and the MJD launch in 2008, the Palio has seen a mild transformation between engines and facelifts.

The Linea on the other hand is going to be a rocker. With showrooms clambering to display the product, and with fiat delaying the official word on the cost till its “official” launch on Jan 14th 2009, the Linea will be the most important product for 2009- because Fiat needs a success. Fiat has also gone all out to ensure this- with the Fiat – Tata tie up for sales and service, and the ramping up of the distribution network for spares, the company is ensuring that they do not fall along where they have failed before.

The Car:
Exteriors – the Fiat comes with rather bold body lines. Made it Europe is written all over, with its huge grill, stylized headlights and large tail lamps, the linea has some of the most exciting lines. The finish of the body panels is quite nice and the car appears to be firmly planted with the standard 15” wheels. The ground clearance in the showroom looks ok, but how this fares in the real world will need to be tested.

The Engine: The Linea comes with the tried and tested 1.3Multi Jet Diesel, however, what sets it apart from the rest of the herds of Swifts, dZirs, Palios and Vistas is the fact that Fiat has re-engineered the engine to include a VGT turbo, thus, allowing for a more liner delivery of power, as opposed to a turbo kick at about 1450 RPM. The VGT thus allows for a better squeeze, and this mill is able to push out about 20.4 Kgm at a decent 1750 rpm. Now, that is pretty impressive, considering its only a 1.3L engine. Power wise, critics admit that an additional 10bhp to push it over the three digit figure of 100+bhp would have been nice, but the car must be test driven to check the handling and the power. The linea 1.3mjd comes with 90bhp being pushed out at about 4000rpm.

Interiors- the car now takes the interiors to a completely different level. It would appear as though this is the first car in its price bracket (expected to be about 8L) to come with rear vents and a sun screen for the rear windshield. The quality of plastics in the interior are a class apart, and the technology packed into the onboard computer makes it a car supercomputer. The Blue & Me technology co developed with Microsoft and Fiat allows for all windows based mobile phones to sync up to the car and be voice activated, thus allowing for a safer driving experience. The car also syncs with most phones featuring PDAs and allows for the phone book to be transferred to the car computer, thereby allowing the driver to control the phone book from the steering remote. The display screen niftily shows the fuel efficiency, CD track being played and name of the person calling, once all the features have been setup. Now- that’s pretty powerful.
The seating positions are pretty nice, except the initial feeling of lack of space is soon wiped away. The large windscreen gives one a commanding view and the height adjustable seat allows for drivers of most sizes to drive comfortably. The boot is HUGE to say the least and the nicest feature is that the hinges are attached to the body and not inside controlled pneumatically, thus allowing for greater loading space and better control.

The Linea comes with two engines ; the 1.3 mjd and the 1.4liter 8V Petrol. The petrol pushes out about 77ps at 6000rpm, thus on paper appearing to be a little underpowered, however, how it fares in the real world needs to be seen. The versions are the Active, Dynamic and Emotion. The Dynamic and Emotion come with Packs as well that has the Blue&Me and Airbags. However, all cars (Except Active) come with ABS, but lack EBD and Airbags can be added, thus increasing the safety ratings of these cars. Fiat is also putting in a lot in terms of product assurances, the standard warranty is 2 years and 80K kms and the extended is 4 years and 1.5L Kms. The Diesel mill is expected to have an oil change every 15K kms and parts for the car have already started coming in, thus spares shouldn’t be the bottleneck for this car.

Overall – the package appears to be good! However, if the performance lives up to the hype created and fiat is able to deliver on the service front, we might have a winner on our hands.

Monday, January 05, 2009

strikes and the economy

a strike is usually associated with trade unions- when they disagree with the owners on certain aspects. however, this has filtered its way into mainstream life with a strike being called from everything to anything.
there is a truck strike currently on.

"AIMTC, the body which had called the strike, claimed that the first day of the strike was successful. Spokesperson of AIMTC, Mr N.L. Gupta, said, “The first day of the strike call has been successful. In Maharashtra, eight lakh trucks went off the road, causing a loss of Rs 800 crore.”

How can you measure a sucessful strike with a loss of 800 crores in a single day? How different is this from stealing or from any other activity? Is Mr. Gupta happy with the fact that the economy and the truck drivers lost so much money?

I just don't get this logic. During an economic scenario like what exists currently, I really don't believe that calling strikes and causing more irreversible damage like this is going to help. I guess this is why no MNC is looking at india as a Manufacturing base- simply because the logistics is no match to China. and we have bodies such as the AIMTC helping justify the cause.
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