TURIN - The man who rebuilt sales operations at Seat, Audi and Toyota Motor Europe says he will do the same at Fiat Auto.
'The first goal is to strengthen our brands,' said Juan Jose Diaz Ruiz in his first interview since becoming head of sales and marketing on September 1.
'For Fiat, our aim is to widen its appeal, making it less dependent on the Punto,' said Diaz Ruiz. 'We have to push our technology. Fiat Auto is much more technology-driven than the market perceives.'
Rebuilding Lancia is another priority, he said.
Diaz Ruiz, 57, joined Toyota Motor Europe as sales and marketing boss in 1998 and quickly pushed sales in Europe past Nissan for the first time. He performed similar feats at Audi and Seat earlier in his career.
He is already shaking things up at Fiat, which has lost market share steadily in recent years.
The company has reduced its number of dealers and created bigger sales territories. Diaz Ruiz wants to take the strategy further.
'We can offer these bigger dealers an opportunity to make more money, to get all three brand franchises [Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo] - four if you also include Fiat commercial vehicles,' he said. 'This is something some competitors cannot offer because they do not have so many distinct brands.
'But dealers have to change radically,' he added. 'I want them to renew their internal processes, to hire new salesmen, and to offer a single reception for sales and service.'
Diaz Ruiz said he aims to reduce the number of trim and equipment variations.
'We want to reduce product complexity by a third in the next five years,' he said. 'This will permit us to have a basic car that is suitable for the entire European market - hugely reducing the number of cars in stock in various countries.'
By strengthening its brands, Diaz Ruiz said Fiat Auto will cut distribution costs.
'In recent years Fiat Auto lost part of its customer loyalty, so we are spending more to win them back,' he said. 'With stronger brands, customer loyalty will rise again and we can save this money.'