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Fiat keeps faith in light commercials

Light work: The Fiat Doblo launched in October last year, but has failed to fire in the competitive light van segment, with just 66 units sold to the end of August.

While Fiat has culled its passenger-car line-up, it has confidence in LCVs

14 Sep 2015

FIAT Professional’s three-pronged commercial line-up has been backed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia, despite a downturn in overall sales for the European-sourced workhorses.

The Italian brand offers the Volkswagen Caddy-sized Doblo, the Scudo light van and the Ducato heavy commercial van Down Under, but sales are down by 2.3 per cent to the end of August compared with the same period last year.

In light of Fiat’s passenger-car sales slide of more than 24 per cent, the commercials would appear to be the least of FCA’s problems in Australia. The company last week announced that it had discontinued the Punto and Panda light cars due to low take-up.

Fiat and Alfa Romeo product manager Aitezaz Khan said that while the Punto and Panda had been given a chance and failed to get real sales traction here, the light-commercial side, led by Ducato, had made a good start since the updated line-up was introduced in October.

“Ducato is number two in its class, in the category it's right up,” he said.

“We only introduced the full LCV range in October last year. It's a slow burn, you need to churn through the fleet deals and gain customer confidence before it starts impacting the full line-up.” So far this year, only the Ducato has troubled the scorers to a significant extent. Its haul of 702 sales to the end of August puts it just 2.1 per cent behind its tally to the same point last year.

August itself helped the model make great gains, with almost triple the number sold compared with the same month in 2014. Only the Renault Master is ahead of the Ducato in year-to-date sales, with 915 French vans sold, a 42.7 per cent lift.

Doblo and Scudo are not leaving the showrooms at anywhere near the same rate.

The Doblo small van range, which starts from $22,000 plus on-road costs, has petrol and diesel drivetrain options with manual and automated manual gearboxes, as well as short- and long-wheelbase variants.

It is yet to make an impact on the segment, selling only 66 units so far this year. The Doblo is easily outsold by the dominant VW Caddy, which is on 1466 sales and has a 51 per cent segment share, and the Renault Kangoo, which has found 757 homes this year, a rise of 64 per cent.

At the larger end of the van spectrum, the ageing $31,000 Scudo – available in six-speed manual only, boasting a 1200kg payload within six cubic metre cargo space – has racked up just 120 sales, a 37.5 per cent dip over the same period in 2014.

It is the second lowest-selling model in its segment – dominated by the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad – and has been overtaken in the sales race by the Chinese-built LDV V80.

Any suggestion that the models might go the same way as the recently axed passenger cars is emphatically refuted.

“It's way too early to say it's not working. Clearly we've got a long-term view with these brands, it's not a case of bringing them in and then pulling them out,” Mr Khan said.

He also said that the Fiat Professional dealers support the brand’s overall presence in Australia, and its future plans.

“Every plan we present has dealer network input, there's collaboration and a plan in place and we're working to that.”

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