The performance is being mirrored across Europe and Fiat Auto's new chief executive Giancarlo Boschetti believes much of the blame can be placed on the company's inefficient dealer network. He accuses them of relying too heavily on high discount fleet sales.
A senior Fiat UK source says concern about open territories has reached a critical stage, and the manufacturer is now seeking “unconventional” ways to find representation in key
markets like Southampton. Fiat's network totals 157 dealerships. It is looking for about 15 more outlets to fill “some important holes”, says the company.
It is thought that Fiat will buy sites and premises and then lease them back to its franchised dealers - although the source says the company has no plans to launch its own automotive retail network. Several other manufacturers - including Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Toyota - are also following a similar strategy of sale and leaseback dealerships so they can retain control of distribution in important territories.
“We are going to be much more pro-active with dealer matters,” says the source. “It's time to roll our sleeves up and find innovative ways to strengthen our network, instead of lengthy contract negotiations with particular dealers that can take years. We will be able to get things off the ground much more quickly.”