Alfa Romeo and Fiat Dealers Are Airing Grievances and Protesting the Company

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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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  • Jalop1991 Jalop1991 on Feb 13, 2017

    Is it me, or does this sound like FCA trying to achieve the reality of doing business like Tesla, if not the legal and regulatory fact of same?

  • Orenwolf Orenwolf on Feb 14, 2017

    Man, this whole dealership model feels so last century to me. I mesn, I get it - this is how we buy lots of things. *most* people don't go to their local GE store to buy a dishwasher, say, they go to their local Best Buy or whatever to do it, where they get bugged by comissioned sales peeps for add-on warranties and/or to be upsold to whatever model they don't really need but the store has an excess of stock in. But, who *likes* this model? We learned this year that an ever-increasing number of shoppers are choosing online purchases every year. They're still buying these appliances from "dealers", but more often than not they're online, you click a few buttons and your appliance arrives a few days later. You don't like it? They come pick it back up. You choose about installation support or extended warranties on your terms, on the site. And increasingly, manufactuerers are opening their own online presence for this sort of thing, too. Cars aren't dishwashers, sure. But holy crap the fact that this model is *forced* on the auto business as pretty much the only option is nutso and feels like piano players trying to keep the phonograph at bay or something. And how much money is siphoned out of the system by these vast networks? Man.

    • See 3 previous
    • CarDesigner CarDesigner on Feb 14, 2017

      @JimZ ...and they run on unicorn farhts and never have a bad day or wear anything out!

  • David S. Bear Tooth and Chief Joseph highways.
  • StormEagle 400 miles range
  • Inside Looking Out Enforcing laws? It is so yesterday! Welcome to California!
  • Lou_BC You'd think cops would have an understanding of the laws they are supposed to enforce.
  • Merlyn I’m on my second Spark and love it! I can pass any car I’ve never had a problem going up a hill it does just fine. As for cargo I can fit three suitcases, two book bags and still have the front seat for a passenger. Not sure what point this guy is trying to make. I have hand free phone service and Sirius radio plug in my phone and have navigation. I would buy another spark in a heartbeat.