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Abarth reveals plans for two-tier dealer network

Abarth, Fiat Group Auto-mobile’s standalone performance subsidiary, has started preparing contracts for a second tier of dealerships in the UK which will specialise in aftersales services.

This authorised repairer network will be appointed over the next 18 months and is likely to number up to 20 in total.

It will complement the full-blown franchised dealer network which is expected to peak at 20 outlets during the first half of 2009.

They will be authorised to carry out servicing and repair but not Esseesse kit upgrades.

Only tier one dealers will be allowed to sell and fit the engine and bodykits.

However, unlike other European countries, the UK is unlikely to introduce a middle tier of dealers that are authorised to both fit the kits and carry out servicing and repair, according to Abarth UK brand manager Ivan Gibson.

“We are preparing contracts and standards for aftersales dealers and we are ready to talk to people now.

“But our priority is the tier one network,” he told AM.

Gibson has appointed 10 dealers in time for this month’s launch of the Grande Punto Abarth.

All of them are existing Fiat dealers; some also have the Alfa Romeo franchise.

“We have had interest from outside the network and, as a business model, Abarth is viable in its own right, but it’s a more attractive proposition for Fiat Group Automobiles dealers,” Gibson said.

Dealers have invested in 100sq-m (10,706sq-ft) showrooms with capacity for a four-car display area and merchandise section. Investment is averaging £50,000.

Abarth dealers’ bonus will be attached to quality, customer satisfaction and mystery shopping. Sales bonuses will put the emphasis on overall business turnover – cars and merchandise – rather than unit sales.

The Fiat 500 Abarth goes on sale in mid-January and is expected to sell up to 1,500 units next year, adding to the 800-900 Grande Punto Abarths.

Gibson does not rule out extending the Abarth brand to both Alfa Romeo and Lancia models and hints at a future Abarth-branded two-seater sports car.

“Abarth’s success came with Porsche in its earliest days so it is certainly conceivable that we can have an Alfa Romeo Abarth and a Lancia Abarth,” he said.

“But there will only be Grande Punto and 500 Abarths in 2009. There is serious considerable being given to an Abarth specific product, possibly a two-seater, but that would be some way off.

“We have the plans, but it’s too early to reveal them.”

Abarth is also likely to develop a car for the World Rally Championship in 2010, when the technical rules change, while circuit racing is being considered for the 500. “Watch this space,” added Gibson.

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