The re-introduction of the Uno has been both praised and condemned by various readers for several reasons. What prompted the decision to relaunch this vehicle in South Africa? The previous Uno gained popularity by being cheap to run and fun to drive - will the new Uno follow this formula? Any idea what the standard features list look like?
It was motivated by the need for a basic, entry-level, affordable product (sub- Palio) in the Fiat range that could provide mobility for first-time car buyers. As a refined version of the previous UNO, the newcomer will continue to be a value proposition while still offering a fun driving experience - in fact, even more so. The latter is attributable in part to the following factors:
It's fully imported from Brazil (the Bella Horizone Plant is one of the best manufacturing sites in the world) and hence the build quality is substantially improved over its predecessor which was locally manufactured.
An all-new 1.2-litre multi-point injected engine provides a performance boost to the range - with 50 kW on tap and 111Nm of torque available from a very accessible 2 250 r/min, the newcomer has a fair turn of speed. The 0-100 km/h sprint, for example, is dispatched in 13,4 seconds.
The new UNO launches this week to the media with full range disclosure.
The latest ranges have great potential to grow the brand locally, but it seems they all suffer due to perceived bad quality. What is being done to up the quality of vehicles, especially those produced locally? And how do you plan to increase your ratings in quality and reliability surveys?
Perceptions are definitely changing, but this is not going to happen overnight. It's worth noting what has already been done to bring about this change:
Since the beginning of this year, an Aftersales Director has been appointed to specifically focus on the area of quality and reliability.
The new products being introduced onto the local market speak for themselves. Models such as Panda and Grande Punto have received international praise for their quality and reliability, and we as Fiat Auto SA are obviously benefiting from this. The planned importation of new vehicle ranges such as the Bravo and the 500 will only improve the situation.
As from August this year, local production of Palio and Strada will cease. All our vehicles will then be imported from either Europe or Brazil.
What will be done to improve the Fiat brand image? How will Fiat SA market upcoming models to compete more strongly with other rivals in their classes?
New products like Bravo and 500 will go a long way to elevate the brand in the minds of consumers. As before, however, the marketing message will still focus on Fiat as a good-value-for-money proposition. With a 40-strong dealer network, it's logistically impossible for Fiat to sell in the kind of numbers that the market leaders (with hundreds of dealers each) are able to achieve.
What is Fiat SA doing about improving customers' dealer experiences? There are complaints of long waits for spares and parts and readers having to deal with rude and arrogant employees. Also, are there any plans to further expand the dealership network?
As mentioned earlier, the appointment of a dedicated Aftersales Director has meant that this area of our business has received considerable attention. For example:
The customer care department has been upgraded to ensure that all complaints that come in receive equal attention.
Parts Liaison Officers have been appointed with the sole purpose of expediting parts delivery.
A brand new parts warehouse goes on stream within the next three weeks. This state-of-the-art facility is administered by logistics specialists, UTI, and is fully electronic allowing dealers to track parts from the moment the order is placed.
Fiat Auto SA is actively canvassing for new dealer opportunities in areas where there are gaps in the market.
Does Fiat produce passenger cars and LDVs that are compatible with biodiesel? And when would we be likely to start seeing some of these models being launched in South Africa?
In line with other local manufacturers and importers, Fiat?s current requirement is that the mix be no greater than 5% biodiesel to 95% regular diesel. As far as flexfuel (bioethanol) goes however, Fiat would be in a position to go to market immediately with several Brazilian-sourced models, should the demand exist.
Wheels24 apologises for the delay in publishing Fiat's answers.
Fellow Italian, Ferrari's local importer Viglietti's, has declined participation in the Wheels24 reader Q&A.