WHAT VAN? AWARDS – WINNER'S PROFILE: Ready, steady, Doblo Cargo

Date: Monday, April 30, 2018

 

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Fiat Professional UK boss Richard Chamberlain

Chamberlain insists the Fiorino is “still doing well for us”, and points out it commands bigger shares of the markets in France and southern European countries.

He also says that, along with the Doblo Cargo, it will attract interest with a petrol engine.

“People are wanting an alternative to diesel,” Chamberlain states, before hastening to add:

“[But] there is still a big role for diesel in commercial vehicles.”

He contends that the market still doesn’t recognise electric powertrains as a viable alternative for CVs and points out that the latest Euro6 diesel engines have significantly reduced CO2 and NOx emissions.

Chamberlain stresses the need to “look at the whole journey” when it comes to EVs, pointing out that the production of electricity can itself have an environmental impact in some regions, but says the Fiat Group is likely to reveal its plans for the alternative fuel later in 2018.

From an economical perspective, Chamberlain concludes: “We firmly believe diesel is the solution in the medium term.”

Fiat used last year’s CV Show to demonstrate the versatility of its Ducato large van with a low-floor Luton conversion, an ambulance and a pod box that fits onto a Ducato chassis.

The brand also displayed its limited-edition Fullback X pick-up truck at the NEC. Chamberlain says the Fullback is predominantly appealing to lifestyle customers and adds the model notched up a respectable 1,000 sales in its first full year on the market.

He stresses that changes to the currently favourable fixed benefit-in-kind (BIK) rates and VAT arrangements could knock the bottom out of the buoyant pick-up market.

Pointing out that many fleets work to a five- to seven-year lifespan for their vehicles he cautions the Government to be very clear about any changes to tax laws.

“Changes in regulation can destroy markets very quickly,” he warns.

Looking at prospects for Fiat Professional’s range in 2018, Chamberlain does not anticipate much change from last year.

“Overall it will be similar to 2017,” he predicts. “It will soften with Brexit, but not significantly.”
The Ducato remains Fiat Professional’s biggest volume player by a clear distance – last year it accounted for 7,000 sales compared to the 2,500 of the Doblo Cargo in second place.

Fiat Professional has 70 sales and 150 aftersales points in the UK and Chamberlain says the Ducato is well served by the extended opening hours the brand can offer operators at 35 dealers through its corporate links with Fiat Group truck manufacturers DAF and Iveco.

He says the bland of HGV and car dealers within the network “supports customers at whatever end of the spectrum [they are on]”.

Chamberlain admits that historically Fiat’s light commercial vehicle division has concentrated on large corporate and short-term rental deals but claims the focus is now on small and medium-sized enterprises.

“This is important for the dealer network,” he says.

With a dedicated fleet team to drive the process, he adds: “There has been a move into smaller, regional fleets.”

The aim is to achieve more volume through more customers, with increased emphasis on conversions with greater brand awareness and stronger residual values as a result.

Chamberlain became Fiat Professional’s fourth boss in a period of just two years when he took the helm 12 months ago, having joined the brand in October 2016 from Renault Trucks, but he promises he is in it for the long haul.

“I’ve no plans on going anywhere else,” he says. “My experience and passion is for commercial vehicles.”

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