Alfa Romeo and Fiat Dealers Are Airing Grievances and Protesting the Company
At least 20 Fiat and Alfa Romeo dealers in California have filed protests against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles after the manufacturer altered franchise agreements last December. Dealers objected to the changes, claiming it placed the struggling brands at a further disadvantage.
While the grievances vary between dealers, the protests revolve around a few key issues. FCA’s obligation to provide vehicles to the franchisees, the legal standard dealers must meet to sell those units, alterations to the definition of parts or accessories and how that might enable third-party distributors, and the constantly changing language surrounding dealer responsibilities were all common themes among the filed complaints.
“At this point, the new agreement is going to put additional burdens and additional risks on the dealer,” Gavin Hughes, a Californian attorney filing many of the complaints, told Automotive News. “It’s unreasonable for the manufacturer to unilaterally be able to change the terms of a contract.”
One of the oddest modifications to the franchise agreement is FCA’s almost threatening assertion that the distribution of its products are under “its sole discretion” — a statement that includes “persons who are not authorized dealers” of Fiat or Alfa Romeo vehicles. There are also several bizarre mentions that dealerships are required to “energetically, actively, aggressively and effectively” showcase, advocate, lease, and its product — as if that wasn’t their goal all along.
Dealers have also been issued manuals, maintained entirely by FCA, that establish mandatory guidelines for everything from training requirements and networking capital to facility standards and day-to-day dealer operations. According to Hughes, these manuals can be updated and modified without notice or dealer input.
“This is shifting the burden away from FCA and to the dealers to be up-to-date on any changes that may be posted,” he said. “Most dealer concerns are that they’re going to start posting changes whenever they like.”
“By filing a protest, the dealers are protecting their rights. If you don’t file, then you don’t have a say in what happens,” Hughes added.
The complaints, filed in December and January, will have to be reviewed by the New Motor Vehicle Board so it can decide whether to deal with the cases as a single unit or hold individual hearings. It is unknown how many Fiat or Alfa Romeo franchisees are protesting outside of the state of California.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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