Fiat and Alfa Romeo dealers shouldn’t expect to see improvements in brand rankings in high-profile customer satisfaction surveys for at least another year.
That’s the stark message from Fiat Group MD Andrew Humberstone after both marques rated poorly in this year’s Which? Car magazine survey.
Fiat was ranked 34th and last, Alfa three places higher. The study was compiled from more than 64,000 responses on servicing, and high-lighted Fiat as one of the brands most likely to have customers who desert the franchised network for the independent sector.
Overall satisfaction with both Fiat and Alfa was down by one percentage point on last year. That raises questions about the controversial ‘name and shame’ five-star rating system for dealers, based on customer feedback, launched in February.
“It’s a disappointing result, but not totally unexpected,” said Humberstone. “In seven months we’ve seen many positive shifts, but something like this is a two to three year programme and is then ongoing. It will be the end of next year before we see that cascade into reports and surveys.”
Citing internal figures, he said the number of Fiat dealers on five stars had shifted from 20% to 28% since the project’s launch.
At Alfa, 29% were rated with two stars but that figure has fallen to 9%.
“Initially there were some concerns from some dealers, but they were ones who had things to be concerned about. We’ve seen that a big stick doesn’t work and also that huge incentives don’t either. It’s something they should want and aspire to do.”
Shahzad Anjam is executive director of Cambria Automobiles, which has five Fiat dealerships in the north-west. “Getting customer satisfaction to where it should be is a top priority for Fiat dealers and improvements are being made.”
Richard Smith, director of Clemo Fiat in West Yorkshire and a member of the brand’s dealer council, said there were a number of very good nation-wide initiatives in place to boost customer satisfaction.
But he added: “Two recalls earlier this year puts pressure on the service departments to get people in as soon as possible.
“It can be difficult to provide quality customer satisfaction in those circumstances.”