Fiat Finishes Last in Measure of Dealers

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Deeply troubled Fiat, a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU), finished last in a carefully followed measure of dealer quality. Sales of the brand have nose-dived this year, and it has finished near the bottom of several car brand surveys.

The new J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study is a “comprehensive analysis of the new-vehicle purchase experience” and measures customer satisfaction with the selling dealer (that is, satisfaction among buyers). The information was gathered from 28,989 buyers who bought or leased a new car or light truck in April or May of this year. The study covered 14 luxury vehicles and 19 “mass market” brands.

Among mass market brands, the average score was 766, while the highest possible grade is 1,000. Fiat’s last place finish was based on a score of 707. Several other Fiat Chrysler brands fell below the average, with Jeep at 738, Chrysler at 749, Dodge at 758 and Ram at 760.

The top-rated car among mass market brands was General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Buick at 808, followed by MINI at 803.

Fiat’s sales in the United States have cratered. Over the first 10 months of the year, sales have fallen 17% to 23,021. In October, the number dropped 33% year over year to 1,769.

Fiat’s problems are not entirely based on brand and dealer quality. Its cars compete in the crowded low end of the market, which is driven by low-cost, high-gas-mileage cars. Every major global manufacturer has vehicles in this category, and most have larger marketing and product development budgets along with sprawling dealer networks.

Fiat’s burden to reverse its fortunes just got heavier.