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Fiat in the USA
In #34, Paul Rollins wrote (in part):
"It is not necessary that the brand ever be national. There are probably
areas where the type of cars FIAT Group makes will not be very appealing
(like where the majority of people have three first names, all of four
letters or less, and the same last name), so why offer them there and
lose money forever? Any rational advertising budget would be built on
the assumption that the brand would NOT be FIAT. Only a fool would march
into the market place with a brand with so much negative perception
(negative brand value). It would take a huge amount of money just to
convince the market that the cars weren't instant-rusting,
mechanically-unreliable, poorly-supported, low-resale-value junk, which
is where the brand is, unfortunately, now."
Two points: First, I'd contest your assumption that there's no market
for Fiats in redneck territory. I live amongst the Bubbas and the Jim
Bobs, and Fiat sold a whole big bunch of cars here, many of which are
still with us. The ones that are not (excluding terminal-rust victims)
died largely because by '77 or so there was just one shop here
(Nashville) that would work on them, and that shop was and is notorious
for its lousy work and worse attitude.
And that brings us to the second point: access to maintenance and repair
is absolutely essential to any marque's success in this or any country.
Why, for instance, are Peugeots regarded as just about bulletproof in
Africa or the Australian Outback, but are notoriously fragile here?
Because any corner garage in those other places can do Peugeot repairs,
that's why, whereas in the US the hapless Pug owner has to go to just
one shop in a major city, where even the oil-change guy wears a white
coat and tie, and they charge $60 an hour just to sneer at you. I'm
convinced that the policy Alfa's US distributor had, of restricting
factory training and access to service bulletins to dealerships
exclusively, played a major part in dooming their marketing effort here.
If there were had been as many service outlets for Alfas as there are
for BMWs, the Milano might have been the market challenger to both the
3- and 5-series that it deserved to be. Fiat needs to understand this if
they're contemplating a return, either under their own badge or Alfa's,
and they need to make sure the idiots at ARDONA understand it too.
'87 Alfa Milano (hers)
'60 Falcone Berlina 6C2400 (mine)
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