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Fiat launches online buying

Fiat Auto will launch an online buying service in the UK next month with cars sold through its dealer network.

Roberto Testore, Fiat Auto chief executive, said the online buying service would start with Fiat models and then extend to Alfa Romeo and - on the Continent only- Lancia as it is rolled out to major European markets.

“It will allow the would-be buyer to choose and outfit their car on the internet, select his preferred form of finance and locate a showroom where they can sign all the documents and take delivery,” said Mr Testore.

He described the internet strategy as dealer-centric, saying: “The dealer represents the node between the internet user and the car industry. The aim of our system is to draw our customers to the web and direct them to our dealers.”

The service will be extended to used cars by the end of the year and an online aftersales service will be launched next year.

Mr Testore said Fiat had signed a far-reaching agreement with Microsoft to use its CarPoint system.

Fiat is investing some £32m in web-based projects over the next five years including installing navigation systems in all its cars. Although Fiat and its partner GM will look at using joint technology wherever possible, Fiat was already well advanced in its own systems, said Mr Testore.

These include e-mail in all Fiat cars, internet access and functions to download music files. The new Alfa Romeo 147 will feature voice-activated controls - a first for a Fiat Auto product. The 147, unveiled at the Turin auto show but not launched until mid-October in 3dr form, is the replacement for the 145/146 and is the last legacy of Alfa styling chief Walter de'Silva. He left the Turin company 18 months ago to join Seat.

The 147 is based on the acclaimed 156 and continues much of that model's styling. Five door versions of the 147 - on UK sale from March next year - will have recessed rear door handles, for example. The 103bhp 1.4-litre engine has been dropped in favour of a 105bhp 1.6-litre as the entry-level unit.

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