Dealers set ultimatum: Fiat should stop selling cars to unauthorized resellers

Frankfurt. There seems to be no end to the troubles between Fiat Automobil AG and the dealers association.

"Fiat sells cars at any price," said Friedrich Karl Bonten, the president of the Fiat-Lancia dealer association.

At the latest dealer meeting, Bonten said even new cars and short-term registrations are sold to unauthorized resellers. "With discounts of up to 40 percent," he said.

Bonten has now given an ultimatum to Fiat Germany boss Stephan Winkelmann. He demands that Winkelmann give a "written and legally binding" confirmation that he will no longer sell one-day and short-term registrations that way.

"This is the last time we are going to try and meet them halfway. If that doesn't help, we will need to take more drastic measures to protect the trade," Bonten warned.

Beside filing a suit for damages, the association is also looking into imports from other parts of Europe that don't involve the official importer.

"This tactic has worked before, with spare parts. And it resulted in significant losses for Fiat," Bonten said.

Winkelmann said he promised dealers at the delegates' meeting that unsold cars will, in future be offered first to the dealer association on special conditions. After a certain period of time, they will then be offered to car rentals such as Charterline.

"We have not violated any laws. But we have to reduce the high level of unsold warehouse stock," Winkelmann said.

Two further contentious issues were settled however. The dealer spokesman said that the number of re-imports has dropped significantly. "This is primarily thanks to Fiat boss Herbert Demel," Bonten said.

And progress has also been made within the service business. Karl Hell, after-sales director at Fiat since the middle of 2003, started a new field-service structure on June 1. So far, Fiat has employed two area managers for each region, one responsible for service, the other for spare parts. In future, both sectors will be looked after by just one person.

In addition, Fiat has reinstated three "flying doctors," who solve dealers' technical problems on-site.

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