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Fiat Auto to revamp network and recruit further retailers

Fiat Auto is launching a major overhaul of its 175-strong dealer network, AM can exclusively reveal that the revamp will provide UK dealers with dramatic new looks aimed at boosting the image of the franchise.

Changes to the Fiat showrooms promise to be just as striking, with new logos, signage and vivid aluminium and orange wall panels.

Bosses hope Alfa retailers will be ready in time for the next wave of new product, which begins in earnest next year and includes a facelifted 147, a new 157 to replace the 156, and the GTV Coupe. This year will see the launch of the new GT Coupe, 156 4x4 estate and 8c supercar, which was first revealed at last year's Frankfurt motor show.

The company is looking to grow its network to 200 sites by mid-2005 as its fills key open points in the Midlands, south-west London and Oxford. Sixty per cent of the new premises will be Fiat only, the rest shared sites with Alfa Romeo. New partners as well as existing dealers will be encouraged to open outlets.

During the next few years, Fiat Auto will be encouraging dealers to focus more on their used car programmes to help bolster residual values across the model range. “Used cars are something that, traditionally, we do not do well. But we have been working with dealers on developing and enhancing their used car programmes,” says Brian Hawkins, Fiat Auto's dealer development manager.

The company is undertaking a major health check of its network. The audit, being carried out by specialist Urban Science, will provide a state of the nation-type snapshot of the network. It will form the basis of a new best practice group for retailers, due to be created this year, where Fiat's most experienced partners, like Reg Vardy and Arnold Clark, will outline tips for success.

Fiat Auto is also considering relaunching the Lancia brand in the UK. The new Ypsilon supermini would be imported in left-hand-drive form only and sold at selected dealers in the south-east of England.

If it works, there's a chance that the Lancia Fulvia coupe could be imported in the same way – provided the initiative is given the green light by Turin.

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