Some leading groups have taken on the franchise, with Benfield taking on the Chrysler Jeep in Newcastle alongside Fiat Group brands Alfa Romeo and Maserati. Stoneacre Motor Group added Chrysler Jeep to its Fiat site in Peterborough this year and Vospers and Meridien took on the franchises on the South Coast.
TH White launched the UK’s first Fiat Group brand centre in Swindon in August with showroom divisions for Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Chrysler and Jeep.
Arnold Clark dual-franchises the Chrysler Jeep brands with Renault, Hyundai, Peugeot, Chevrolet, Kia and Mercedes-Benz. It does not pair them with its Fiat sites. There are some Fiat Group brand centres in the UK, but the strategy is to pair Chrysler Jeep with Alfa Romeo.
There are benefits with housing Fiat Group brands under one roof. It has unified the field teams for Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Chrysler and Jeep. Each brand used to have separate zone managers, but there are now group zone representatives for each of retail, fleet and finance. Abarth has seperate zone managers due to it being a niche product which recquires "personal attention".
Fiat Auto Group’s new commercial director Karl Howkins also confirmed earlier this year that the network would gain other benefits from sharing back-office systems.
All of the franchises will benefit from a new used car programme, an online CRM system and an extended fleet specialist network, involving business sector aftersales initiatives by the beginning of 2014.
A new CRM system was introduced in all Fiat Group brands from September.
Born in the USA
Brands can be successful in Europe without being European, but the path to healthy volumes of sales is usually taken by adjusting producs to suit European tastes.
Kia and Hyundai are good examples of what can be achieved – both have design and research bases in Germany. Infiniti is finding it very difficult to compete against German rivals and is also investing in designers and management to help give it a European focus.
Dodge (Chrysler and Jeep’s previous brand mate) and Cadillac have both fallen victim to UK customers’ distaste for American cars. It’s a conundrum because what are Chrysler and Jeep without their American heritage? Any attempt to Europeanise them would dilute their appeal to customers looking to secure a piece of Americana.
Chrysler has pursued this European strategy to a certain extent with rebadged Lancias, to help form the brand’s small car range.
Jeep’s new B-segment model will be based on the Fiat 500L. If Fiat can take full control of Chrysler, it is likely UK dealers will be seeing more Chryslers underpinned with Italian engineering.
The most cost-effective strategy is to create products that work globally. Brands such as Ford have moved to a global strategy, so models like the Fiesta and Focus are the same in California and Croydon, with specification tweaks for individual markets.