The aim is to introduce advanced IT resources to the sales and service field, assisting dealers in boosting sales and customer loyalty.
With the new service, sales outlets will have real-time access to product and marketing information, and dealers are able to check stock availability and calculate instant finance options.
The theory is that customers will effectively ‘build’ a car to their specifications by researching all the available models, parts, colours, and so on. In the future, it will also be capable of letting dealers show comparisons with other competitive brands.
In the dealer showroom, a sales executive and a potential customer sit at a computer. Once the relevant vehicle range has been entered, together with a few personal details, a model search is done from a pre-established, regularly updated list of vehicles of the specific type required.
Once selected, the required version and options are defined. Link shows the customer a technical specification sheet for the vehicle and version chosen, and gives access to press articles and editorials on the models.
Once the correct version and appropriate options have been established, the customer can choose accessories, body colour and interior shades and fabrics. With the vehicle configured, the sales executive can then determine its availability online, within that particular dealership, or within other network dealers, so that an accurate delivery time can be given.
The Fiat Link stock locator function also provides information on specification and financial differences between the selected vehicle (complete with options and accessories) and vehicles available in stock. It also supports the appraisal and valuation of a customer’s part-exchange, and any promotions that may be applicable to the customer’s chosen model.
If the customer is interested in finance, the system can also formulate a finance package. It then goes to the final step: the drawing up of an exact quote with information on payment terms. The system also offers the dealer a chance to select any specific product discounts or promotions. Fiat Link also allows the salesperson to book another meeting with the customer for a test drive, or follow-up, in a computerised diary.
The pan-European Link project, which represents an investment by the company of some €20m (£13.6m), was first introduced in Spain in 2002, and was extended last year to Italy and Belgium.
By 2005 it will have been taken up by the entire Fiat Auto European dealer network, 17 countries, 1,800 dealers and 4,000 authorised workshops. The system will serve some 18,000 users on the sales side (eSales) and 24,000 on the workshop side (eServices).
Fiat Link has already been introduced at over 70% of Fiat Auto’s 160-strong UK dealer network, and plans are in hand to have it functioning through its entire network by the end of the year.