Fiat Professional is celebrating record UK sales of almost 15,000 vans in 2014 and looking forward to further growth this year. With the latest version of Ducato now up to speed and a revised Doblo Cargo set for launch in March, plus a growing presence in the corporate fleet sector, Fiat Professional director Sebastiano Fedrigo (pictured) is confident that 2015 will see the company building on last year’s success.
‘We still see tremendous growth possibilities this year,’ he said.
Fiat Professional is a stand-alone brand within Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, with its own design, manufacturing and sales operations. Mr Fedrigo claims that it is this independence that has allowed the company to build strong relationships with a wide range of customers.
‘It means that our total focus is on commercial vehicle users. It allows us some freedom in the way we want to structure our business.’
That is certainly true in terms of UK dealers, with almost 60% of the firm’s dealer network being heavy truck outlets and only 40% of vans sold through Fiat’s own car dealer family. This mix of outlets provides Fiat Professional with access to larger fleets mainly through the truck dealers, and to retail and SME customers through the car-based centres.
That said, the company’s top 10 dealers are a mix of both, with the top performer last year being a car dealership that has invested in a van-specific showroom.
‘This combination is what has given us such strong growth,’ says Mr Fedrigo.
However, with plans for continued expansion, he is keen to see additions to the current 76 Fiat Professional dealer outlets going forwards.
‘We are planning to get to 80-85 dealers this year,’ says Mr Fedrigo.
Further positive news for Fiat Professional is that growth hasn’t just come from one sector. Retail sales are up by 45-50%, with SME sales also growing by 50%. Sales to the rental market have risen 17% and leasing deals have seen a 29% boost.
‘Growth has been filtering down from the major corporates to SME and retail sales. We haven’t maintained the volume in big corporates that we had in 2013, but we are growing in all channels to market,’ said Mr Fedrigo.
‘We really feel that we are a player on the shopping list in the fleet segment now.’
While Ducato is Fiat Professional’s top selling model across Europe, and the number one imported van in both Germany and France, it is still number two for the company in the UK.
‘Our best selling vehicle in fleet is Doblo Cargo, but we are seeing major corporates taking Ducato now,’ says Mr Fedrigo.
‘We are gaining a lot of market share at 3.5 tonnes. Our Ducato orders last year were 48% up and we have been able to convince some key users of tippers and dropsides to move into Ducato.’
As with all manufacturers, having a range of bodies available for Ducato has been an important consideration and is an area that will continue to develop in the future.
‘We do need to be doing more,’ said Mr Fedrigo.
‘We started with a tipper from VFS and we now have a three-way tipper from the factory and a crew van. We will have to develop box vans and Lutons and we need to come back into the minibus sector too. We will build momentum with the box and Luton bodies and then look at a fridge as well.’
The big news for 2015 will be Doblo Cargo, though the firm’s new product drive doesn’t stop there. ‘Doblo is the second step in a full Fiat Professional revamp over the next two years,’ said Mr Fedrigo.
The Scudo replacement will no longer be built in partnership with PSA, but will share running gear with mid-weight Renault vans. The van will make an appearance in late 2016, along with a new Fiorino and a 4×4 pick-up, to be built by Mitsubishi.
‘This is the beginning of a journey for Fiat Professional,’ said Mr Fedrigo.
‘We see a strong Q1 this year, before the end of the tax year, with a relatively strong Q2. There will be lower growth in the second half of the year, but there is growth in the market this year for sure.’