The quality of vehicles and services offered to van fleets by Fiat has improved beyond recognition in the past six years.
The Italian manufacturer launched the Fiat Professional brand in 2007, effectively extracting the light commercial vehicle operation from its car business.
This allowed Fiat a whole new way of thinking in its attempts to entice van fleet operators.
The split has paid dividends, with Fiat’s van market share steadily rising from 3.7% in 2007 to 5% today.
But the success of Fiat Professional – which has seen a 50% increase in sales so far this year – must also be partly attributed to the guiding hand of Sebastiano “Seb” Fedrigo, who took over as director in September 2011.
Since his arrival in Britain from his home in Italy, Fedrigo has immersed himself in the LCV scene with enthusiasm and today is a popular figure who counts among his acquaintances just about anyone important in fleet.
While the LCV chiefs of some manufacturers see their role in the job as purely to sell vans, Fedrigo sees the sales job as just one arm of his professional career.
He tells Fleet Van: “Since arriving in the UK, I have made myself as available as possible to Fiat customers, potential customers, dealers and important people in the industry.
"I have factored in time in my job to attend lots of seminars and conferences, along with meetings of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, and Fiat Professional has also got involved in the Freight Transport Association’s Van Excellence scheme.
“That way, I can get right to the heart of van fleet operators and learn what’s really important to them.
"By listening to them, we can find out what they really want and adjust our offerings accordingly.” So what has Fedrigo discovered from his attendance at various fleet events?
The most important topic, hardly surprisingly, is that of running costs and fuel consumption and, as a side issue, driver training to reduce use of fuel.
In this, Fiat has a solution in mind. Fedrigo says: “All our vehicles have excellent fuel economy figures but, as a bonus, speed limiter systems are embedded in our vehicles so that when fleets buy them, we can set them at four different speeds.”
Giving fleet operators access to driver data
Fedrigo is sceptical about offering classroom-based driver training courses, instead feeling that Fiat’s EcoDrive Fleet package is more likely to lead to lower fuel consumption.