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Fiat taking 'conservative' corporate line, says UK MD

Date: 20 March 2013   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

Fiat has expressed a desire to remain conservative with its fleet and rental business, targeting the retail market and specialist corporate sales.

UK managing director Steve Zanlunghi told BusinessCar: "Fleet is a bit of a double-edged sword. We're trying to shy away from non-profitable business and protect our RVs. It would be easy to turn on the taps and sell lots but we won't. We're going to be conservative."

Despite this stance, Zanlunghi, who took over as MD of the Fiat Group in August 2012, admitted the company had fallen foul of large-scale daily rental deals: "The guys that were here before did a very big deal with Avis on the [Alfa Romeo] Giulietta, but we're being very careful with sending these cars back into the market now. It has been a problem but once we've come through that we can deal with it.

"There is good rental business if you do it in moderation. Do it when the vehicle comes out because it gives you good exposure."

He said that the group, which encompasses Alfa Romeo as well US brands Chrysler and Jeep, planned to target specialist areas of the corporate market: "We're looking at getting into the chauffeur segment with the [Chrysler] 300C and we're going to play very aggressively on that."

Speaking about the firm's historically poor reputation for reliability and Fiat's last place in a owner satisfaction survey by Auto Express magazine last year, he said: "I'm not in the business of being last and I'm not in the business of losing. That's probably the first time I've lost my temper in five or six years. Good or bad, we want feedback. As I told my team, I want to get off the bottom [of the list] first, then we can move upwards."

He said steps had already been taken to address this, including a change in the Fiat's three-year warranty, the final year of which was previously underwritten by a third party provider rather the manufacturer. This changed in January and the full three years are now underwritten by Fiat.

The Group also has a raft of new product on the horizon, some of which is said to be class-leading. Zanlunghi continued: "You'll see a refresh on the Giulietta hopefully before the year end.

"There will be a new Cherokee at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. We're looking to be ultra competitive with that as far as emissions go. [It] will have an eight-speed transmission. It's going to have lower emissions and it will be smoother."

When quizzed about the Mazda CX-5, currently the lowest emitting compact SUV at 119g/km, he said the forthcoming Cherokee would be "extremely competitive. We think this will be a vehicle that will surprise people."