Fiat hires Smart car chief

Fiat puts global brands strategy into hands of DaimlerChrysler’s Smart car boss Klaus Fricke.

Fiat has poached DaimlerChrysler’s Smart car marketing chief, Klaus Fricke, to be its global head of strategic planning and brand positioning, with responsibility for Fiat and Alfa Romeo.

Fricke joined DaimlerChrysler as head of marketing and sales for the Smart car division in June 1999. Smart car is understood to be seeking a replacement for Fricke.

He was responsible for handling the $60m (£41m) relaunch of the Smart car in October 1999. The campaign, together with an expansion of the Smart car sales network to include Mercedes-Benz dealers, achieved an 86 per cent sales increase.

Fricke, who previously held sales positions at Daimler-Benz and BMW, will report to Juan Jose Diaz Ruiz, global director of marketing strategy for Fiat Auto.

Diaz Ruiz joined Fiat in August last year from Toyota Europe, where he was sales and marketing director with a brief to help the Italian car company rebuild its market share and improve its image.

The Italian car manufacturer this week reported a rise in operating profits of e67m (£42m) for the group in its full-year earnings yesterday.

Fiat Auto, which accounts for nearly half of total group revenues, had operating profits of e44m (£27m), compared with a loss of e121m (£76m) last year.

Last week Fiat announced it has sold 1 million Punto cars since the new model’s launch 19 months ago.

Diaz Ruiz told a news conference in Turin, Italy, that the orders portfolio for the small car had doubled in the past four months, reaching 27,505 in January this year.

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