Not many know of it here, but Nissan has pulled off a masterstroke by introducing the Qashqai (called Dualis in Japan) in 2007. The C-segment family hatch market is not a friendly place for those trying to snatch sales from the Golf and Focus, even more so for a Japanese brand.

So instead of taking the market head on, they made an SUV styled car to offer something different, and it has paid off handsomely. The British made Qashqai is the fifth best selling C-segment car in Europe, behind only to the Golf, Focus, Astra and Megane, which all have more bodystyles. A Nissan that sells more than the equivalent Peugeot, Skoda and Fiat in Europe? Wouldn’t have dreamt that with the Almera for sure!

Now comes the news that Fiat will be using the same strategy for their next C-segment car. Group CEO Sergio Marchionne wants them to replace the pretty but slow selling Bravo with an all-new high-roof crossover inspired by the Qashqai. Marchionne first hinted at this in Detroit early this year, and the decision was finalised late last month, according to Automotive News Europe. Sources said that this car will appear in 2013.

Actually, the Bravo vs Qashqai comparison is apt. Both cars came into the market in 2007, with the Fiat having sexy good looks and home territory advantage. But the taller riding car outsells the Italian one by 5-to-1. Sales of the Bravo have been slipping badly. Only 44,850 units found new homes in 2010, which is less than what the Skoda Yeti, a niche product, managed.

Fiat’s original aim was to sell at least 120,000 Bravos a year. The company said the car would make a profit as long as 75,000 units were sold a year. That target was hit in 2007 and 2008, but never since.

Will this “crossover strategy” work for Fiat? Nothing’s certain, but it’s surely a better bet than taking on the giants in a straight fight!