Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Fiat : It is the Service, Stupid !

Corporate Brand : Fiat
Brand Analysis Count : 525

World's 7th largest automotive company, a company that markets iconic brands like Ferrari , a company whose diesel engine powers the best selling hatchback ( marketed by a competitor) is having a market share of ~0.3 % share in World's 5th largest automobile market. Isn't it ironic !

Fiat had so far three avatars  in the Indian market. In its first avatar , the company licensed its product to an Indian company Premier Automobile Ltd. Premier sold these cars under the brand name Premier Padmini and Premier 118 NE. That was in the early 1990s.

In the next avataar, Fiat came to India as Fiat India Automobile ltd ( FIAL) in 1997 . During those times, the company launched Fiat Uno in India. The product although  had a dream launch with over 30,000 booking , the dream went sour since Fiat's partner PAL couldn't deliver the orders. The lack of delivery created a backlash from the customer. 

Besides once the product was in the market, there was a feeling that Fiat bought an outdated model to India.
In 1997, Fiat formed a JV with Tata Motors to jointly manufacture and distribute cars in India. Under the JV, Tata Motors would allow Fiat to use its dealers for selling the Fiat models. The Fiat engines were inturn used in Tata Motors models like Indica, Manza etc.
Fiat launched Palio during these times. Palio initially gained lot of customer attention. The brand was endorsed by Sachin Tendulkar. The car earned a reputation for being a very sturdy car with a good engine. During this time a sedan brand Sienna was also launched. But yet again, Fiat was not able to build on the momentum generated by the initial launch of these cars. 
In the  early 2010, the company launched two modern models Fiat Punto and Fiat Linea. These cars had drop-dead gorgeous looks and like any other Fiat launches, gained lot of customer interest but again the take -off in sales never happened. 
In 2012, the Tata Motors -Fiat JV collapsed. According to newsreports, Fiat is now on its solo life in India and has incorporated Fiat Group Automobiles India Pvt Ltd as a fully owned subsidiary . 
It is interesting to note that India's best selling car brands run on Fiat's engines. The best sellers like Maruti Swift , Dzire, Indica, Manza all run on Fiat engines but how come Fiat is not able to produce a best-seller. 

Only one reason- commitment. Fiat so far was trying to avoid committing itself to Indian market. It never had a serious intention to build itself in the Indian market. When companies like Ford, Tata Motors, Maruti etc had took pains to establish dealerships and service centres all across the country, Fiat opted to take a short-cut by roping in partners who never delivered. 

Service is a very big component in the decision making process of a car buyer. Its common sense that Indian consumers who typically kept a car for more than five years ( earlier even 15 years) look for a trusted brand who offered good service back-up. That is why despite all short-comings, Maruti still rules the Indian market with more than 60% share
Fiat's biggest mistake was its lack of service support for the consumers. It had all the time to build a robust network atleast in the key markets. But rather than that Fiat outsourced a very critical component of a automobile brand's building block.
Fiat had realised this and is now building its own channels and it is not easy. Concurrently, the brand is trying to build its trust back through campaigns pitching its two models Punto and Linea.
Watch the ad here ; Fiat Corporate campaign
Fiat has taken the slogan " Make the Move" urging consumers to take the leap of faith and buy a Punto or a Linea. But Faith needs to be built in the mind of the consumers through actions and ads only serves to reinforce the faith.

Fiat, due to its lack of commitment  , was never in the choice list in the buying process of an average Indian consumer. The typical reaction was " the car is good but I am worried about service ". It takes lot of time and effort to change that.