By Hugh Hunston
Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Jeep-Chrysler dealers, covering a total of 310 outlets across the UK, are undergoing a root and branch review of their network by Fiat Auto Group’s new commercial director Karl Howkins (pictured).
Former third-generation Vauxhall manager and GM veteran Howkins is planning a new used-car programme for the three franchises, an online CRM system and an extended fleet specialist network, involving business sector aftersales initiatives by the beginning of next year.
Howkins, who moved to Fiat after 20 years with GM, admitted that his new role involved “one hell of a challenge” and switching corporations was “the toughest decision of my career.”
The former head of GM’s Dutch sales operation and Vauxhall fleet operations manager said Fiat’s and Alfa Romeo’s upward momentum from the bottom of CSI surveys could only be sustained by “selling cars and getting people into them, which improves customer enthusiasm.”
Fiat Group's demo fleet will grow by 50% with a centrally-located stocking unit available for dealers.
A new CRM system, derived from the group’s USA operations, will be applied across the four brands from September after being piloted at an undisclosed location.
Howkins told AM: “It must pick up the right touch points, asking the right follow up questions in the right way and concentrate on simple things like sourcing customers’ and prospects’ email and addresses and text numbers.”
Howkins emphasised the need to grow Fiat’s 35% fleet sales factor, which he said was “way behind the national manufacturers’ norm of 52%” and there was scope for dealers to major on SME business with “more foot soldiers knocking local companies’ doors. It is about butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.”
Fiat Group plans to raise the share of dealers deploying dedicated fleet personnel from 15% to approaching 35% by the end of next year. But the group’s new commercial director did not expect “immediate or miraculous results.”
The “fresh brand” for used car sales, about which Howkins said he was passionate, will apply across Fiat, Alfa and Chrysler-Jeep franchises while three or four titles are being discussed with dealers.