Car News

No more lemons: FCA’s dawn of a new era, says after-sales boss Stéphane Lamari

We speak with Stéphane Lamari, FCA head of aftersales how the brand plans to shake off its stigma of poor customer service and unreliability.

THE ALFA ROMEO Giulia QV, launched earlier this month, heralds a return to form by the Italian manufacturer and the Giulia range could be the lifeboat the brand needs. Alfa Romeo cops its fair share of criticism for reliability – much of it from bygone experiences – and because it’s now a part of the greater FCA group it’s only been exacerbated.

We had the opportunity to talk with after-sales director, Stéphane Lamari, and ask how FCA plans to change this perception and what steps its taking going forward. Having worked in over 40 different countries Lamari’s resume is thick, including years of aftersales expertise in Europe for Renault who he says has one of the best after-sales and customer care networks amongst all the manufacturers. And in two years on the job here, it seems his experience has begun to have a positive impact for FCA.

It’s great news for FCA buyers because there’s currently no course for legal action in Australia if you have bought a lemon from any manufacturer. 

Lamari explained that much of the issue is from poor customer experiences with earlier Jeeps, and that the right training and parts network has fixed that now.  

“There are two separate problems, the first problem is product reliability and (the other is) customer satisfaction,” he said.

“First of all we need to have the right level of training and the right level of technical capacity from the network, and next week all the technicians from the new network will fly to Italy and will have one week training specifically on that product. So that’s the first time we fly the technicians to Italy. So that’s the first step.

“We also had one big issue with a gearbox here, it was the 9-speed (ZF in the Jeep), that has been addressed now.

“The issue we have with Jeep in the past is that, except for the gearbox problem, we don’t have a lot of issues that are common. So they have to investigate, and that’s where we have to have the best training possible so there’s the quickest diagnostic possible. After that it is how you support the customer.”

Previously, cars brought in for servicing and repairs were not always fixed right the first time, and this is another area Lamari has worked hard to improve:

“Already in 2016 we have improved the ‘fixed right first time’ and already I have a lot of dealers in the network with a high capacity of 96 to 97 per-cent of fixed right first time – and that’s a level we have for example for the best dealers in America for the Jeep brand.

There were some dealers that were not at the right level and that’s because we didn’t provide the right training, so, now we have re-engineered completely that (training process) and 2017 is really the year of the technical training.”

We speak with Stéphane Lamari, FCA head of aftersales how the brand plans to shake off its stigma of poor customer service and unreliability.

Next, Lamari tackled the spare parts network, when previously customers could wait weeks for a part. Lamari doesn’t want a customer to wait more than few days at most, making sure nearly every part is available in the main distribution centre in Melbourne. If a part isn’t in Australia, he’ll express freight it from overseas:

“How do you support the customer? That’s the second part.

“First of all we change all of the policy about rental cars and the courtesy car since July. So all the customers who breakdown need to have a solution for mobility (and will get one).

“Customer care support, that was the big thing that was missing 2-3 years ago when Jeep (complaints) raised so much.

“The growth here (in Australia) was very quick and the background (establishing a well stocked and efficient spare parts network) was not set, and so if you have a little problem but it takes me three months to fix that problem, it is no longer a little problem and it is a big one.

“The thing that has been address is logistics, I think we have one of the best in the country; we have a 96 per-cent fill rate, and this with only one big warehouse in Melbourne. So part availability is not an issue and 70 per-cent of my costs are air freight. So we are air freighting parts where they are not available (at the dealer) to ensure the customer has mobility.

“There really shouldn’t be a wait because I’ve got the stock. But if it’s a really specific part, maybe five days (to air freight from Italy), he said.”

We speak with Stéphane Lamari, FCA head of aftersales how the brand plans to shake off its stigma of poor customer service and unreliability.

Of course, there’s also the image associated with old Alfa Romeos, and that’s a little harder to shake off. But according to Lamari, the new Alfas are some of the most reliable vehicles when compared with other brands:

“The other problem is that these issues for Alfa Romeo are from years and years ago, and if you discuss with our (customer care) network (who) works with other motor brands not just FCA brands, they are processing less warranty on Alfa Romeo than a lot of other brands. We no longer have those issue with our engines or those gearboxes for Alfa Romeo.

“And this one (the Giulia) has been worked on a lot to ensure it will be the flagship.”

Question: Do you own a Jeep or an Alfa Romeo, and have you experienced the new-look after-sales Lamari is referring to. What did you think?

  • Adzee Aus

    Dealer networks are a huge part of the issues. My Fiat 500 was one month before warranty expiration, took it in to have gearbox (Dualogic) looked at because it wouldn’t go in to gear, engine mount was shagged, and plastic clips in dash holding light globes had become brittle from the heat and fallen in to the dash. Dealer was abusive, and when they finally “got approval” to complete as a warranty claim damaged the chrome gator around my gear leaver. The dash now creaks and they “couldn’t find a fault” with gearbox, or engine mount and missed stamping my books on a service. I just recently got a call about my need to service the vehicle, I expressed my disappointment that they haven’t addressed the above and got told sorry about that and ended the call. I was in the early days of ownership sprucing the fun car and no problems for me to complain about (excluding the purchase from western suburbs dealer that was horrific!) and encouraged people to give the brand a chance. They haven’t done anything for me now, and I cannot wait to have it paid off so I can get rid of it, if they want to improve customer satisfaction perhaps they could send every owner in last 5 years a letter offering some sort of appointment with someone in charge of warranty to get issues fixed. It’s great to hear someone understands small problems become big ones and they hopefully start been proactive in putting out their bush fires!

  • Galaxy Being

    I will not do business with FCA given their abysmal reputation for product reliability and terrible customer support. How about offering at least a 5 year warranty, covering rattles after 12 months and really supporting your customers.

  • Longer Left Foot

    I have a 4 year old Giulietta. The car developed a really annoying dashboard rattle around the instrument binnacle after about 10 months and it still has it – seemingly it’s spreading as there’s now another somewhere around the glovebox. Dealer was accommodating and looked at it a couple of times and each time said it was fixed, although it seemed to rattle more each time they pulled the dash apart. I concluded that the dealer’s mechanics are deaf and the more they pull it apart the more it’s likely to rattle. Reading through Alfa owner blogs and being in contact with 1 other Giulietta owner, it appears that dashboard rattles in Giuliettas are common and irreparable. I figure that there’s an inherent fault in the design of the dashboard or the way it’s assembled so it’s never going to get fixed. Shame really, otherwise the car has been pretty good. A couple of other minor faults (TCT actuator and battery) were fixed without any problem during the warranty period. This annoying fault stops me from considering any further Alfa purchases (third) until the build quality standards are confirmed to be above average because Alfa is now pricing itself in the premium market.

  • Grand Problems WK2

    “The issue we have with Jeep in the past is that, except for the gearbox problem, we don’t have a lot of issues that are common.” WTF? Do your homework Stephane. Yes, the 9 speed is a disaster for owners but wow, you have numerous “common” issues across the board with numerous models. Spend just a minute on the Grand Cherokee WK2 platform and see the dozens of recalls in recent years with failed recall attempts. TIPM issues worse than the 9 speed. Plastic oil pan issues with blue smoke on start up. Vehicles which pull to left or right and cannot be fixed. Numerous suspension issues. Prevalent electrical issues. Poor prep of aluminum for paint, corrosion issues. …and yes, terrible customer support for so many which have had issues. Our new WK2 grand cherokee is the worst vehicle we’ve had with the worst support, terrible ownership experience all around. How many times we’ve heard the FCA getting better b*llsh*t lines only to continually see your vehicles at the bottom of reliability survey’s every single time (ref latest consumer reports 4/2016 and 10/2016 as one example).

  • mtrider

    I would dearly love to buy the new JL Wrangler dual cab ute when it is released in 2018 or whenever it hits our shores. But the only way, and I do mean to the only way I would consider a Jeep after their abysmal history for bending their customers over and giving them a right royal rogering, would be if they had a fully enforceable customer satisfaction (replacement or refund) guarantee written into each and every purchase contract. Words are cheap but deeds speak volumes. On the whole Aussies are a very loyal bunch and they trusted FCA once but it will take more than words to win back consumer trust in their products. Unless FCA are prepared to back themselves and prove it with actual tangible actions over words (read ‘Trust us we won’t do it again promise’) I, and most others will not trust them again…ever.

  • Kizz302

    Yes i’ve experienced it but my core issue (a common issue worldwide with my vehicle and US customers have invoked the lemon laws) which was reported at the 1,000K service is still not resolved 2 years later. The new Area Manager drove my car and reported they are all like that which may well be right but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue. I asked Jeep customer care if I could discuss it with the area manager and was told no, asked if I could drive another vehicle of my type for a few days to confirm and was told no.

    I’d dearly love to speak to Stéphane about my issue and to provide first hand positive feedback from someone who has experienced the customer care change as I do have genuinely good experiences to relay as well as areas they could improve in.

  • Massimiliano

    I had a Mini Cooper D (BMW) black for 26,000 Euros (36,700 au dollar) paint was dull and poor from day one, the clutch was faulty and was replaced at 39,000 km, after 4 years the Injectors are broken of letting me walk engine, the machine makes a squeak in the dashboard that are not able to solve at 80,000 km has begun to make a terrible noise from the metal rear suspension slamming, had to wear some special pads (not springs I’ve already changed) that cost over 1500 au dollar and occurred on all mini of my acquaintances. The headlamps have dulled as they are discolored, the radio display has lost definition and do not read any more, the electronic key in the cars of the 70’s and I had to replace them, the plastic of the dashboard (air conditioning) is broken and has cost 570 au dollar, the front sun visor broke, the coupons cost an average of 2000 au dollar and every time stands still 15 days without replacement cars. Not to mention the BMW 320 series D where he broke his engine after 80,000 kilometers. I also had a Smart car (mercedes Benz) who broke the engine at 67,000 despite all the facts coupons regularly from home. My old Alfa Romeo 156 2.5 v6 had not given me any problems ever, was perfect. I’m sorry but never again German cars, they cost a lot and have a reputation no longer true for new cars. Many who buy cars for image issues, are ashamed to say that their car paid 70,000 dollar, has repeatedly broken and who has spent months in the workshop for repairs, it would look stupid.

  • William Turnbull

    About to find out. After 8 years of servicing through Alfa Romeo Brisbane and being well satisfied over this period, I am told they no longer have the software for my 159 selespeed. I have been referred to WestpointAutos at Yeerongpilly for my annual service and understand they are now the Alfa dealer service agent here in Bridbane.
    The car was booked in this morning and so far am impressed with the high standard of customer relations.
    Bill Turnbull

Alex Rae

Alex Rae

Alex Rae grew up among some of the great stages of Targa Tasmania, an event that sparked his passion for all things mechanical. Currently living across Bass Strait in Melbourne, Alex has worked for the last decade in the automotive world as both a photographer and journalist, and is now a freelancer for various publications. When not driving for work Alex can be found tinkering in the shed on of one his project Zeds or planning his next gravel rally car.