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Fleets to push Fiat Professional further

Fleet street: Fiat Professional is targeting fleet buyers with its commercial range including the Scudo and the Ducato (left).

Fiat enters local fleet market as motor-homes prove a winner in Australia

Fiat logo14 Oct 2013

THE Fiat Chrysler Group has entered the fleet market in Australia for the first time on the back of its expanding Fiat Professional light commercial range.

The US-Italian automotive giant’s local arm is pushing hard for large commercial contracts as well as trying to appeal to small business operators as it attempts to push into Australia’s competitive fleet market.

Fiat Professional Australia director Rob Moorcroft confirmed the company had hired former Renault Australia national fleet manager Jim Boyd, who helped the French brand win the coveted multi-year contract to supply vehicles to Australia Post when Mercedes-Benz’s contract with the postal service ends this year.

Mr Moorcroft said while Fiat Chrysler was late to the game when it came to fleet sales in Australia, the company was doing everything it could to get the attention of business buyers now.

“If you look at our Chrysler Jeep product, we have never been involved with fleet before, ever,” he said. “So for our company it is very new. But quickly learning it’s about relationships, it’s about getting these guys to understand what we have got to offer, where it is priced, and finding out what do they need and how we help.” Fiat Professional models including the Scudo and Ducato vans have been added to the tender list for the New South Wales, Queensland and Victorian state governments and Mr Moorcroft said the company is also trying to break into the rental vehicle market.

“We are working very hard with Budget, Hertz, AVIS, and not just on commercial vehicles, but we are making some very good ground on passenger cars, which we have never done before. And the reason we have never done it before because we never approached them.

“We are starting to get a very good understanding of their needs, their pricing levels, buy-backs. It is new ground for us.” Mr Moorcroft pointed out that the reason Fiat Chrysler has not had a presence in the fleet market until now was simply a case of the company not looking into it, rather than any specific issues relating to product.

One side of Fiat Professional’s business that is already strong is its sales of motor-homes based on the Ducato cab-chassis. In Europe, two out of every three motor-homes sold are on a Fiat chassis and in Australia around 40 to 50 per cent of sales are Fiat-branded vehicles.

Mr Moorcroft said the brand sells around 50 units a month with prices that can range between slightly less than $100,000 up to around the $300,000 mark.

Mr Moorcroft said sales have been stagnant in recent years but that is set to change with the next generation of motor-home buyers ramping up their interest.

“The baby boomer era is about to come into that age group and its going to be very big. RV sales over the last three years have been very flat because of the global financial crisis, and other things have caused that,” he said.

“But I think as the baby boomers move in, there is going to be pretty good scope for motor-homes. So we are just preparing for that and we think that will be huge.” Current competitors in the market include Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, but Renault recently confirmed its interest in dipping its toe in the local motor-home market.

Mr Moorcroft said he welcomed the competition and added that while motor-home sales are important to the brand, it would not be Fiat Professional’s key business.

“That’s a very tight market. We have a very good relationship with our OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) and our builders. We build a cab-chassis specifically for motor homes, and Renault doesn’t.

“I am not threatened by that at all, and I think, good on them for having a crack. For me, long term, that’s not my mainstream business, it can’t be. My mainstream is fleet and commercial.” The push for fleet sales coincides with an expanded national commercial dealer network that has grown from 16 in May last year to 52 sites that currently operate either as stand-alone dealers or integrated with Fiat’s passenger car brands.

Mr Moorcroft said Fiat Professional was investigating a number of more flexible servicing options for its fleet and business customers.

“We are looking at embracing Saturday servicing and we are talking to our dealers now about it. And certainly after-hours servicing. We would like to present that as a package when we sell a vehicle. You talk about fixed-price servicing it’s been around forever. What we need to offer is what suits the business.” Mr Moorcroft said the commercial range had either met or exceeded its sales targets this year, with the Scudo sitting on 152 units for the year to the end of September, just two units more than what it was expecting for the entire year.

Fiat has sold 770 Ducatos in the same period with an expected target of 1300 for the year, but Mr Moorcroft said he was hoping for 2000 combined Ducato and Scudo sales next year.

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