Friday 20 October 2017

Back in the driving seat: great Fiat fight-back

The bigwigs at Fiat are hoping a five-year warranty will win back lost market share, writes Martin Brennan

Male orders: It's hoped the Fiat 500L Trekking will draw in more male buyers
Male orders: It's hoped the Fiat 500L Trekking will draw in more male buyers

Martin Brennan

FIAT has a magic number to win back market share which dropped to 0.3 per cent this year.

The number is '500' and next year, the new country director here, Frenchman, Yann Chabert, plans to emulate the success story of the 500 range of models on the continent with conquest sales here.

To put Fiat back on track, the 12 dealerships in the country will be increased gradually. But the initial emphasis is to create awareness of the brand and a big element of that will be a five-year warranty offer.

Ireland is the only market in Europe to get such a lengthy warranty; other markets get a two- or three-year warranty.

It is expected that all elements of the new strategy will double market share in 2014 – a good time to start a fight-back as the market is expected to grow to 80,000 new car sales next year, up 5,000 units on this year.

This week, Fiat launched four models – the 500S, 500L, 500L Trekking and 500L MPW – and the new boss outlined his strategy to rebuild the Fiat brand here.

Mr Chabert has been re-launching Fiat's marketing campaign and he has re-introduced customer finance packages. Up to November 18, customers will be offering a range of 0 per cent PCP and HP finance deals as well as loyalty bonuses. Dealers are also staying open on Sundays to generate more footfall.

The Fiat 500 has been a popular car for the brand and since July, the range has grown from a single derivative to include the new 500S which is aimed at males with its sporty wheels and chunky body kit. Priced from €15,195 with a 1.2 69hp engine, it's also available with the 85hp two-cylinder TwinAir engine.

Fiat hopes that the 500L which offers surprising interior room, will steal sales from MPVs but also from more traditional family hatchbacks.

The company has admitted that it hasn't traditionally been strong in the Golf/Focus class and has decided to take a different tack and offer an alternative to customers who don't want to put a hatchback on the driveway.

In continental Europe, for example, where the 500L has been on sale for around a year already, Fiat has found that 70 per cent of its sales are conquest sales from other brands and other vehicles segments.

To broaden the appeal of the 500L range, Fiat also introduced the Trekking to draw in more male buyers. The visual impact of adding chunky bumpers, side cladding, larger wheels and a higher ride-height give it a more striking appearance.

The final model launched, the Fiat 500L MPW, adds an extra row of seats making it the most compact seven-seater on the market.

Prices for the Fiat 500L start at €21,750 for the 105hp TwinAir Petrol Pop Star model, which comes with alloy wheels, a five-inch touch-screen stereo and cruise control as standard.

The Trekking model costs an additional €1,000.

Sunday Independent

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