Fiat gets new car off to a champions start

NOT slow on the uptake when borrowing a little of the world championship-winning veneer of sister marque Ferrari, Fiat will launch its new and important Stilo model today (Wednesday), with Michael Schumacher at the wheel.

The Stilo will be driven by both Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello at the Circuit de Catalunya as part of the campaign to sell the new Fiat - which faces strong competition from the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus as well as its cousin from the Fiat stable, the Alfa Romeo 147. The new model will replace the Bravo/Brava range in Fiat's line-up.

Fiat beat Ford to buying a major stake in Ferrari in the mid-1960s after the company's founder, Enzo Ferrari, agreed terms with the American giant, only to have a patriotic change of heart at the last minute. With Enzo's death in 1988, the Ferrari name was further absorbed into the Agnelli empire.

So once again Fiat is tackling Ford with Ferrari in the middle - although this time it's for a share in the all-important family car market.

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