Italian investment bank Banca IMI has issued an upbeat research note on prospects for Fiat Auto on the back of a positive assessment of Fiat’s new C-segment model, the Bravo.

IMI said that it has raised its earnings estimates for Fiat Auto in 2007 and 2008. The bank said the timing of the Bravo launch is opportune – maintaining the sales momentum set by the Grande Punto and taking advantage of the fact that key competitors are ageing.

Low volume targets of 70,000 Bravo sales in 2007 and 120,000 units in a full year are matched by a low investment, IMI noted, yielding a breakeven of just 70,000 units on the model and a positive contribution from 2008 onwards.

The bank also said that initial test-drive reports on the model in the Italian and European press are largely positive, giving Fiat the ‘thumbs up for greatly improving on the ill-fated [predecessor] Stilo’.

Analysts note that Fiat’s success with the supermini segment Grande Punto in Europe will be tougher to follow-up with the Bravo in a segment where Fiat has struggled historically and competition is particularly tough.