Alfa Romeo and Fiat are considering introducing dedicated areas in the aftersales departments of single-site showrooms to represent each brand.
Alfa Romeo wants to develop a unique identity, in both sales and aftersales, as it looks to promote itself as a premium brand.
This would see separate Fiat and Alfa Romeo areas in aftersales departments – currently 70% of Alfa's 95 dealerships have joint aftersales operations – and separate desks in the reception area. Each marque already has different labour rates and dedicated technicians.
“Brand identity is extremely important to the customer and where feasible we would like to see a separation of the people who are dealing with customers,” says Kevin Jones, dealership development director for Alfa Romeo.
“Alfa is a premium marque and we need to recognise that in aftersales.”
The plan follows the £2m investment by Alfa Romeo in upgrading dealerships across the UK. The striking new designs aim to give showrooms a more sophisticated and upmarket image. The roll-out of the new showroom standards should be completed by the end of 2005.
“We are looking for brand identity through specialisation and focus,” says Jones. “We want people to see uniqueness in the Alfa product and we are looking to dealerships to provide that.”
Volkswagen went through a similar process in the late 1980s when it first took on the Audi brand. Subsequently, both brands separated completely and industry experts are predicting a similar split between Fiat and Alfa in the future.
“It's almost certain we will see a split between Fiat and Alfa Romeo in the next three to four years, and could even see the return of Lancia to the UK,” says Garel Rhys, director of the automotive industry research at Cardiff University.
“The split in aftersales is part of a move to build up the Alfa brand. It now has the model line-up it has wanted for 20 years but if wants to succeed in the specialist sector, it has to attract the right customers. This requires a long-term investment that will create greater distinction between the brands.”