James Blades, former head of Fiat Auto U.K., was named director of marketing at Fiat Auto in Turin, Italy, last year. He was interviewed by Georg Auer of Automotive News Europe.
Fiat wants to be a global player, so why avoid the U.S. market?
We are a major player and intend to have a sales and industrial investment presence around the globe. We are not keeping away from North America, we are simply not present at this point. Our priorities are the growth markets.
You make a special vehicle for the developing markets, the Palio. Why is the Weekend version also sold in the developed markets?
Developing markets deserve a vehicle that is good for western Europe. ... When planning a world car, we looked for a homogeneous segment in all markets and built a vehicle for it.
How do you build a global car with character?
Globalization does not imply reduction to a common denominator. We start with market research and target market segments with common requirements. We are in the vanguard of the drive to build world cars. On project 178 (Palio, Siena, Weekend), the vehicle's engineering and manufacturing control is totally integrated worldwide.
Can you trust market research?
If it is done well and interpreted properly there should be few problems. We do market research and listen to it. We are continually checking, both about product ideas and that we are meeting the promise we make to the consumer.
What do you think of the new marketing methods like megadealers and touch screens?
Direct contact is important in sales, while the use of computers and the Internet is going to grow. The Internet will be important for all shopping in the future, and the motor industry will have to develop with it.