• Fiat dealers will have to shape up or their customers will ship out elsewhere

From next year Fiat UK will be rating its own dealers on its own website so that potential customers can decide where to buy their cars.

If a local dealer has four stars, a customer might decide to go to the five-star outlet down the road.

Fiat UK managing director Andrew Humberstone said the move was to promote transparency within the Italian carmaker's dealer network which, over the past few years, has not been top of the pile when it comes to customer relations.

Humberstone said: "In two years I have been in this job I have had a good long look at the business and the network. I have been to see all the dealers and discussed with them where they want to see their businesses go. We all need to make a profit and the more profitable we are the more customers will benefit.

"If we can address the small things then we can quickly move up the league table in terms of customer satisfaction. These are simple process issues such as calling customers before and after they bring their cars in, making sure we have the right parts available or cleaning their cars. These are not major cost issues but will go a long way to improving customer satisfaction.

"Customers want good service and if they don't get it they will go somewhere else. We will tell customers on our website which are the best performing Fiat/Alfa Romeo dealers. It is up to the dealers themselves to make sure they have five stars.

"I am very aware that there has been a history of questionable customer relations within our network and it is now time for some transparency on our part."

The scheme kicks off in January and Fiat UK will be contacting between 45 and 50% of customers visiting dealers asking them to rate the level of service they received.

What of those dealers who don't get many stars at all?

"Well, we probably will not come to that as poor service will be picked up and addressed during our survey," said Humberstone.

"We have already had a long hard look at the network over the past couple of years. We had 164 dealers, we lost around 40 and now, with new appointments, we are back up to 163. By the end of this year we will have 185 with a target of 200 by the end of 2011."

What is Humberstone's target?

"I am not obsessed by market share and I have not been given any targets to achieve on that score, only to make a profit and, depending on exchange rates, I expect to be able to report a profit next year - for the first time in about 20 years."

Humberstone said he would also like to see larger Fiat dealerships display the full model range.

"We have a lot of dealers with three or four car showrooms but we would like them to be able to show 6-8 cars so that customers can really see what we have to offer."