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​Larger than all other pickups combined

Leader in sales for the segment, Fiat Strada is innovation reference in Brazil

January 31, 2019 - Leading a segment is no simple task, especially for an increasingly demanding market, such as the Brazilian. But, if there is a car that's used to leadership it's the Fiat Strada pickup, on the podium in the segment for light commercial vehicles since 2000, just two years after its launch! With twenty candles freshly blown out, Strada has an appetizing cake of almost 1.4 million units marketed in Brazil. Its record in a single year (2014) is of 153,139 units (about 70,000 more than the second place). To give you an idea, its leadership is so profitable that it holds more than half of the segment's sales (53% in 2018); that is: it sells more than all the competitors put together. A feat that's not meant for any car…

To understand the success of the Strada, first one needs to understand the trajectory of the Fiat brand in Brazil, recognized by its continuous history of innovations, by anticipating trends and improving products, always focusing on the customers' needs. Within the pickup segment, the news has been even more evident. The Strada has introduced innovations such as the extended cab (1999), the Adventure version (2002), Locker electronic differential lock (2008) and third door in the double cab (2013), as you can see in the infographic at the end of this text.

Another important part of the Strada's leadership is that it's a solution that combines robustness and versatility in one compact pickup, good for both freight and family outings. This won consumers' hearts with style and reliability, while being economical and relaxed. Since then, each released version has been a success, not only in Brazil, where it is produced, but also in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, where it's exported.

FCA's Director of Product Development for Latin America, Márcio Tonani (photo), was one of the creators of the Strada. "It all started in 1996 in Turin, Italy, where an Italian-Brazilian team began developing the car. Just like the Weekend and the Siena, it was a derivation of Palio, the brand's first global car. The strategy was to transform a compact pickup truck into a vehicle synonymous with robustness, agility and practicality, adjectives that would make the Strada a sale success and still goes on today", he says.

For Tonani, among the innovations launched with the model, the most striking one was the extended cab, an unprecedented concept for the segment. "It was fully developed in Latin America, with the collaboration of Italian colleagues. It was a great milestone, where we conquered, with the Strada, the leadership in the Brazilian market", he recalls. "But the greatest moment was yet to come. That was when we launched the 3 door Strada, the first pickup in the market to be a bestselling vehicle, surpassing the passenger car", highlights.

With a 36-year career in the company, Robson Cotta (photo), FCA manager of the Experimental Engineering, Laboratories and Prototypes for Latin America, was responsible for the Strada's Experimentation Testing. "I've driven all the different versions", he says. "The Strada has enormous versatility for both people and cargo, as far as the South American customer's needs are concerned. It is a well appreciated car because of this and for its robustness, which is well recognized", he says. "That's one reason for the Strada's enormous success. Everything about it was thought through. Fiat was already successful with the compact pickups derived from the 147 and the Uno however, the Strada was born from scratch, already planned witin the design of the Fiat Palio. That's why it's so superior to our competitors", says Cotta. "The Adventure versions and the extended cabin are a gigantic success, not to mention the 3 doors. And the Locker version further opened a range of versatility for pickups, allowing the locking differential to be used in situations of poor adherence, such as mud and steep climbs", he adds. "It's important to highlight our Fire engines, very economical, and a reference even today. Fiat always understood this market well and has always been daring with its innovations in order to be ahead of the needs of customers", he says.

Historical photo: in 1997, Brazilian and Italian crew working together in Turin to create the "pickup 178", which would be launched one year later under the name Strada


Of course, the recognition for the Strada's majesty does not come solely from the Brazilian market's great numbers. The pickup also received several awards, such as for "Best Small Pickup" by Internet users ("Best Cars" by Best Cars), "Best Car" from the point of view of repair, in the CINAU survey (Automotive Intelligence Center ), the model with the highest owner satisfaction rate, as measured by the survey "Os Eleitos", from Quatro Rodas magazine, and the "highest resale value" trophy in the "small truck" category, according to the agency's annual survey AutoInforme and Molicar.

But if the car is special, you can be sure that it also attracts special customers. At 78, Maria Elena Costa Cabral, from São Paulo (SP, Brazil), has an old love affair with the Strada. "I think this is my fourth one", she says thinking. Her son, Décio, disagrees with her memory: "My mother has had at least six different versions of the car. There were so many of them that it's difficult to remember them all", he laughs. Dona Maria Elena estimates that she got her first Strada 13 years ago. "I remember that from the beginning I found the car to be very safe and good to drive. It also gives me a good feeling of confidence at the wheel because it's higher", she says. "I can carry the fruits and vegetables I grow in the farm, but it is also comfortable for my day-to-day life and for traveling with the family", she praises.

Another Strada fan is the president of the Fiat Clube de Brasilia, Marcelo Mazzaro. "The car is perfect. I had a double cabin and traveled a lot with it. I really loved the car, but I needed more space to carry my goods, so I traded it for an extended cabin. It's a 2009 Strada Adventure 1.8. This car brings me a lot of satisfaction both on the asphalt and on dirt roads. It has a lot of stability and it's comfortable because of its height. It's got quality in any type of terrain and a size suitable for your needs. The cost-benefit ratio is excellent. I intend to switch to a new one".

"Over the years, Strada has shown all its versatility and robustness, consecrated by the Brazilian consumer", says Tonani. "It's synonymous with innovation, pioneering which is Fiat's DNA", says Tonani.

The Strada line has seven versions: Working 1.4 Single Cabin, Hard Working 1.4 Single Cabin, Hard Working 1.4 Extended Cabin, Hard Working 1.4 Double Cabin, Freedom 1.4 Single Cabin, Freedom 1.4 Double Cabin and Adventure 1.8 Double Cab.

Words: Daniel Schneider

Pictures: Marketing

Art: Fabricio Moura

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