(Adds price of new car, sales targets, quotes from executives)
MILAN, July 4 Italian car maker Fiat SpA
unveiled a seven-seat version of its retro-style 500
model on Thursday, hoping to tap into demand for higher-end cars
and stem losses from Europe's moribund mass-market.
The 500L Living, which at 4.35 metres is about a metre
longer than the classic 500, will go on sale for a base price of
19,200 euros in Italy in September.
"We expect to sell about 20,000 to 30,000 of them in Europe
in the next 12 months," said Gianluca Italia, Fiat brand chief
for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne is seeking to squeeze
more sales out of the 500 model in much the same way as BMW's
Mini brand rolls out new versions of the same underlying car.
Europe's mass-market car makers are struggling under
billions of euros of losses annually as consumers forgo new car
purchases with unemployment at a record high.
"I don't see any signs of a turnaround in Europe," said
Fiat-Chrysler group Chief Operating Officer Alfredo Altavilla.
Fiat is betting the 500 family has more appeal than its
other mass-market cars like the ageing Punto. The five-door 500L
- the world's only car to offer an optional on-board espresso
machine - is built on the Punto platform but costs more.
"The strategy of leveraging the 500 brand awareness and
like-ability should work out well for them," said Tim Urquhart,
Senior Analyst at IHS Automotive in London.
Fiat aims to make between 110,000 and 150,000 500L cars at
its plant in Serbia this year. Fiat said last month it sold
30,000 500Ls in the first five months in Europe, where its Fiat
brand had a 5.3 percent market share in May.
It has sold a total of 75,000 500Ls since its launch in
September 2012, Italia said. Fiat sells about 550,000 of its
classic 500 cars per year, he said, and has sold 1.1 million of
them since the car's launch in 2007.
Fiat began exporting the 500L to the United States in June.
The Trekking starts at 19,650 euros ($25,500) in Italy,
about 4,000 euros more than an entry-level 500L and around 7,000
euros more than the basic 500.
($1 = 0.7709 euros)
(Reporting by Jennifer Clark; Editing by Mark Potter and