January 23, 2019

Fiat plans to grow conversions range

Fiat Professional is hoping to build sales in the conversion market. Country manager Richard Chamberlain talks to VanUser.

With the addition last year of the Talento mid-weight and the Fullback pick-up, Fiat Professional currently has a broad range of LCVs on offer. Yet customers want more, in particular additional specific bodies and options to suit their individual business requirements.

To meet this growing demand, country manager Richard Chamberlain has got big plans for the firm’s conversion business. While Fiat Professional does have a small number of ready-built models on offer, he is keen to further develop this off-the-shelf range and to build a network of approved bodybuilders to provide more specialised conversions.

“We currently offer a three-way tipper, a dropside and a utility cab from the factory,” said Chamberlain.

“I want to have a full ready-to-go solution and an engineered solution. That’s going to become increasingly important for us.”

The additions to the Fiat Professional range are helping to keep the manufacturer ahead of the market, with UK sales volumes up 12% to the end of July. Ducato remains the firm’s biggest seller, taking up to 60% of orders.

Interestingly, given the move towards more conversions, around 40% of Ducato chassis already go straight to converters. However, these are motorhome manufacturers, rather than tipper or box van producers. Fiat claims around 56% of the motorhome chassis market in the UK, making it by far the most popular chassis for campervan conversions.

After Ducato, Doblo Cargo is Fiat’s second top seller, holding its own in the small van market. The Fullback pick-up comes third, proving the value of the badging deal with Mitsubishi to get into the rapidly growing truck sector.

Talento and Fiorino complete the line-up, though neither is on a par with the firm’s bigger models. The compact high-cube and car-derived van market continues to shrink, with Ford no longer selling Fiesta Van, so it is perhaps not surprising that Fiorino sales remain relatively modest. However there is more potential for the Trafic/Vivaro-based Talento.

“There is still a big job to be done in terms of awareness for Talento,” said Chamberlain.

Part of that job inevitably falls at the feet of Fiat’s dealer network. Around 40 Fiat dealers market the firm’s LCVs, along with 20-30 heavy truck dealers. This mix gives the company a foot in both the high-street SME market and the large fleet sector where longer opening hours and truck-market levels of service are required.

“Our USP really is our dealer network. We’ve got a good spread across the country,” said Chamberlain.

“We have a nice balance between car-based dealers for the SME market and heavy truck businesses for those customers that require 24-hour back-up.”

There are also more than 150 service outlets providing back-up for Fiat vans, including some of the firm’s car dealers. That said, Chamberlain is also keen to build the company’s aftersales business, maximising the strengths of the Fiat Chrysler group’s Mopar parts and service division.