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?

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.