IT is widely accepted that Fiat produced an instant classic when they unveiled the new 500 to a fanfare of praise a couple of years ago.
It promptly nipped off with the European Car of the Year crown for 2008, collects accolades like Gordon Brown collects brickbats and absolutely nobody seems to have a bad word to say about it.
And now Fiat have pulled off one gigantic marketing coup by striking a deal to become the new fleet provider for no less than BSM, alias the BritishSchool of Motoring.
Fiat are to provide the nation’s most popular driving school with 14,000 cars over the next four years, almost all of them the new 500, plus a number of Grande Punto models.
Not only is it clearly a tasty bit of business for the Italian carmakers but it will be another 14,000 mobile advertisements for their cars on the nation’s streets – even if quite a few of them will be kangaroo-ing along to the sound of crunching gear cogs.
BSM has a network of 94 driving centres from Inverness to Truro and teaches more than 130,000 learner drivers a year.
And here’s another nice little spin-off for Fiat: it’s a long accepted fact that the majority of newly qualified drivers buy the brand of car in which they learned to drive – some 70 per cent in the case of BSM customers.
Fiat’s marketing gurus have not dragged their heels in capitalising on this fact either as they are offering all BSM learners a £500 discount on all new Fiats.
Neither BSM nor Fiat is revealing how much the deal is worth but it looks like a nailed-on winner for both parties. The driving school will be able to lure fashion-conscious young learners to their highly desirable, trendy new cars, while Fiat are buying into an endless source of new customers.
Of course, every Barack Obama has to be balanced by a George Bush and in this case it’s Vauxhall, who have been selling Corsas and Astras to BSM for the past few years. Poor old GM – it really hasn’t been their year.
Last month Fiat launched the 500C, a convertible version of the car, and they chose the UK to be the first country to get the new version. Needless to say, it went down a storm and is expected to be one of the hottest sellers of the summer.