Transport News Brief speaks to Fiat Professional’s Domenico Gostoli about plans to boost the brand’s UK success.
Domenico Gostoli, Head of Brand for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Fiat Professional, says the brand has seen global success in recent years.
“We sold more than 510,000 vans worldwide last year and our vehicles are manufactured in Italy, France, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. Our Ducato factory in Italy is the biggest light commercial plant in the world, producing 300,000 units a year and we are of course part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; the seventh largest auto group in the world.”
With this pedigree he is eager to see Fiat Professional do even better in the UK. “We have a lot of room to grow in Britain,” he observes.
Last year the company was in eighth position in the UK in the up-to-3.5-tonnes sector with 12,629 registrations according to figures compiled by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. That was an improvement of just over 5% on its performance in 2013.
To that can be added a further 1,313 registrations in the 3.5- to 6.0-tonne sector, a rise of almost 7.0% compared with the previous year’s total, where it occupied the third place.
Fiat’s light commercial market share has dropped slightly thanks to the cyclical nature of fleet ordering; if a company has ordered a large number of vans in 2014 it’s unlikely to order more in 2015. However Fiat’s retail sales perform strongly, with the volume of registrations in June alone up 62% compared with June 2014.
Gostoli is keen to forge a path in Britain by showing operators how frugal Fiat’s diesel engines are and highlighting the payload capacity advantage that Ducato in particular has over the competition. Total cost of ownership matters a lot more than the initial price, he says.
Gostoli worked for Iveco for 15 years, and says that truck operators understand this is the case, but not all van operators do. “The fuel efficiency of its diesels alone means Fiat Professional has a good total-cost-of-ownership story to tell.”
A new Ducato and Doblo Cargo were recently introduced, and a face-lifted Fiorino will be added to the line-up in 2016, along with a replacement for Scudo.
Developed in conjunction with Mitsubishi, a 1.0-tonne-payload pick-up will be joining the line-up next year too and will catapult Fiat Professional into a whole new sector of the market.
“The current Scudo is not a huge seller in Britain and its successor will be better at bridging the gap between Doblo and Ducato,” says UK Director, Sebastiano Fedrigo. “That sector of the market requires a slightly bigger vehicle and in this respect Ford’s Transit Custom has nailed it.”
Gostoli says, “We’re also aiming to increase sales of Ducato minibuses and of 17-seaters in particular.” But he is in no rush to launch electric light commercials.
“Electric van technology is not sustainable at the moment because of the extra cost unless there is support from government and I have yet to see a boom in electric van sales,” he says. “We are ready to react if and when a market develops however and this may happen from 2020 onwards when CO2 limits become tighter.”
He believes compressed natural gas represents a better route to environmental virtue despite the fact the limited number of publicly-accessible refueling points restricts its appeal on this side of the Channel.
The British dealer network will not be neglected. “We’ve got 73 sales, service and parts outlets at present and aim to increase the total to 100,” Fedrigo says. “We should have 88 by quarter one 2016 and reach 100 by the end of 2016/start of 2017.”
More than half of the 100 are likely to hold truck franchises: Fiat Professional twins with DAF and Iveco in a number of locations countrywide.
An approved used programme will be launched in early autumn. Dealers old and new will be expected to meet high customer service standards in all of their activities says Gostoli. “There will be zero tolerance of poor performance,” he warns. “You either buy into this as a dealer; or you’re out.”