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Fiat sets out fleet market attack plan

Date: 13 August 2013   |   Author: Tristan Young

Fiat Group's new commercial director is introducing sweeping changes to the way Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler and Jeep do fleet business. Karl Howkins, who moved to Fiat Group from GM in June, is in charge of all sales operations for all of the group's brands.

Howkins is planning to increase fleet sales with a host of new measures including increasing the size of the fleet sales team, doubling the demonstrator fleet, increasing the number of fleet specialist dealers and introducing a fleet aftersales programme.

"With Fiat we're 65% retail and the market is 50% fleet, so we're not talking to fleet enough. I think we can grow this," said Howkins, who has previously spent 20 years at GM including heading up contract hire and leasing within Vauxhall.

"We don't have a D-segment [upper medium] car, but I don't think you need to be in that segment.

"The 500 is 90% retail. The 500L and Trekking [a derivative of the 500L] are the route into fleet. And it's user chooser fleets we need to speak to."

Howkins plans to increase the number of staff in the fleet sales team across the group to give fleets a single point of contact.

"I want more foot-soldiers knocking on doors. We'll operate a direct approach to the fleet market but the dealer will always be involved," he said.

"We have a central stock for our demo fleet but it needs to be bigger - 50% bigger. If you don't drive a car you're not going to buy it - that means a better demo fleet. For every two demos you get one sale."

He added that he was hoping to increase the number of fleet-specialist retailers.

"Currently, 15% of the dealer network are fleet specialists, but I want this up to 30-35% by the end of next year," he said.

This would mean an increase from approximately 45 to more than 100 business specialist dealers, given the total network size of just over 300.

Howkins said that he was also considering a fleet aftersales service package.

He added, too, that he would like to increase the volume of vehicles going through Motability and was not afraid of dealing with daily rental companies. "All short-cycle deals have to be done backwards," he said.

"You have to ask yourself, 'will it sell as a used car?' Our short-cycle business isn't very high as the moment, but rental is great for visibility."