Fiat UK is to increase the warranty on its Grande Punto model from three to five years as a measure of the confidence it now has in the quality of its vehicles.

Managing director Andrew Humberstone said the company had been through some bad times in the past, particularly in the UK with quality and customer service issues, but this is changing

"I know we have said this before," he added, "but this time we have a lot more confidence, we are better organised and we have better products. We really need to be able to deliver on our promises and if an Italian brand can do that it can do so well in the UK because of the passion for cars and motoring - we have had a series of false dawns. Our ability to implement a strategy is the biggest problem we face."

Six months into the job as MD, Humberstone said he has been talking and listening to dealers and customers. "Surveys tell us we have problems with our network and we are addressing this. This year 16 dealers have left and we have 17 new ones. The network now numbers 164 and the plan is for 200 by 2010. There are still areas we need to address in terms of the customer - particularly fixing things properly the first time, parts availability and perception.

"The brand has come a long way over the past two years in terms of product quality and increasing the warranty on Grande Punto reflects this. Hopefully the next surveys will be more positive for us."

He warned that selling cars will be a struggle this year as the credit crunch bites. "We will see a lot of shifting between products and brands but I believe Fiat is in its best position for 50 years, we have good new products, the company is cash rich and can invest in new technologies."