With declining UK sales
in the last few years and a massive 50 per cent drop in 2005 against
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the previous year, due partly from not getting involved in daily rental
and unprofitable fleet deals, Fiat Auto (UK) is looking to the all new
Grande Punto range to turn around its fortunes.
With total UK sales of
just 36,825 cars last year, including 17,000 Punto models, the UK still
remains Fiat’s largest European market for the Punto outside Italy.
With the parent Fiat Group in Italy moving out of ‘the red’ into
profitability last year it has been possible to give the UK operation
a huge cash injection, put in place a new senior management team ready
to launch its most important models, the new Grande Punto.
For 2006 Fiat Auto (UK)
will have a £7 million marketing budget to use to promote the new Punto
range and to re-establish the Fiat brand.
The Fiat UK dealer network
has also been told that it is a time for change. Recently all 170 of
them were all brought together for the first time for a major dealer
conference. The new Fiat management team made it very clear that with
the Punto being launched on 11 February and with the huge financial
investment Fiat are making, the UK dealers will have to improve their
performance to keep the brand alive.
Fiat said the training
of our dealers is the first step in improving our sales performance.
Giulio Salomone who was appointed as managing director for Fiat in the
UK nine months ago said this week at the Media launch of the new Punto
range. “This is the biggest of big days for Fiat in the UK.
Our dealers and their staff have applauded with enthusiastic commitment
the new Grande Punto because of its looks, its price and the whole package
it brings to a very competitive market sector. We and our dealers must
improve the customer experience, give better customer satisfaction and
we now have the right models for them to sell. If we do all that, Fiat
He said, “We have to
more than double our current UK sales of Punto from 17,000 to 35,000
units a year and this year overall we have to achieve a 2% share of
the UK’s new car market, around 50,000 sales.
“Everything is in place
for us to succeed. More than 100,000 new left hand drive Punto models
have been sold in Europe since its launch at the end of last September,
more than our expectations and it has already received Media awards
in Germany, France and Italy."
“The new Punto carries
the new styling face of Fiat. The car looks like a little Maserati.
It is not only beautiful, it is brilliant. It is the largest car in
the B-segment with the best safety ratings in the category, 5-star Euro
NCAP overall, 3-stars for child occupant protection and 3-stars for
pedestrian safety. Additional customer benefits include lower insurance
group ratings, lower servicing costs and the best residual value forecast
in the sector from CAP and Glasses Guide. We understand over the usual
36 month/45,000 mile the Punto will retain 40% of its value. Diesel
models will retain 7% more than the new Toyota Yaris and 26% more than
the new Renault Clio. Petrol models will retain 8% more value than the
Clio and 9% more than the Clio" said Salomone.
Fiat said the starting
price of the range is £1 less than the outgoing Punto range but the
extra value is much more. Thirteen models will be available from the
launch date this month and more engine options will be available later.
Prices range from £7,594 to £12,295. Five trim levels are provided,
Active, Active Sport, Dynamic, Eleganza and Sporting. Standard equipment
on all versions includes anti-lock braking, remote central locking,
front airbags, electric front windows, a CD player, electric power steering
and follow me home headlights.
The Punto is available
with three and five door body options. Sixty-five per cent of customers
are expected to chose the three-door body option and up to 15% of customers
will go for a diesel engined model as it primarily a car chosen by lower
mileage retail buyers.
There is a choice of
six engine options, two petrol and four common-rail diesel units. Petrol
engines are a 1.2-litre 65bhp unit and a1.4-litre 77bhp version. MultiJet
diesel engines are 1.3 and 1.9-litre units with varying degrees of power
output from 75bhp to 130bhp. A 1.4-litre petrol 95bhp engine will
be added to the range later this year. Depending on the engine chosen
five or six speed manual transmission options are available. A sequential
5-speed manual/auto transmission will also become an option later in
Elena Bernardelli, marketing
director for Fiat Auto (UK) said this week, “The new Grande Punto
uses the added Grande title because it is the largest car in its segment.
It is an all-new car with an all-new platform, very strong with better
rigidity and torsional strength as well as better safety features and
specification. We want to sell higher specification models from the
new range with 3-door versions we think appealing to younger buyers
and 5-door versions appealing to older or family customers. The
price steps between the specifications are quite small so customers
can consider various derivatives to meet their budget."
With the £7 million
marketing budget we are using to launch the new Punto range it means
we can be seen on television through our ‘Open Your Eyes’ campaign
right through 2006. This will include 6,000 advertising spots equivalent
to 50 hours of air time. We will also be using national newspaper,
magazines and the world-wide-web to tell people Fiat is back in the
UK. By the end of March we will have targeted 40 million UK people with
our marketing programme. We will also be using graphics of the
car in ‘building wraps’ in major cities and we will be first car
advertiser to use live headlight posters where the cars lights flash
to attract attention. In addition we have just placed the new Punto
in one of the windows of Harrods to maximise exposure. "
She added, “In 2007
we will introduce the Punto back into motorsport through rallying to
increase the brand’s profile. The Punto is critical to the future
of Fiat in the UK – we cannot afford to fail."
What sets this supermini
apart from others in the same class, and the yet to be launched Peugeot
207, are the fantastic good looks and the larger interior space. Although
the three door models will be the most popular say Fiat I really think
the five door versions are the most practical. With all that interior
space why make passenger access difficult? Likewise with the choice
of engines, the petrol units will be the most popular but the diesel
engine gives the best performance for response and fuel economy. I would
save myself more cost by opting for the 75bhp 1.3 MultiJet diesel engine
with the 5-speed transmission because it considerably cheaper than the
90bhp versions with a 6-speed gearbox. Only if you cover lots of motorway
miles does the bigger engine come into its own. On the country roads
and around town the 1.3 MultiJet 75bhp model with Active specification
and five-door bodystyle, priced at a competitive £9,095 would be my
choice. If you want three doors with the same engine it saves you £600.
If petrol really is your choice of power then the best option is the
1.4 Active Sport at £8,495. With prices starting at a very reasonable
£7,594 there is a Grande Punto in the line-up waiting for you. Insurance
groups range from just 2E up to 6E so it will be cheap to run as well.
Bit of a tasty looking bargain I would say.