Man on a mission

Man on a mission

Mopar is sometimes thought of as the forgotten child of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family. Perhaps a better way of describing it would be one of its ‘best-kept secrets’. But even though the profile of Mopar might not be particularly high in the UK, it works with every single one of the cars produced by the manufacturers of the FCA group.

This year, the parts and customisation company is celebrating its 80th birthday and can look back on a distinguished history working to improve the performance levels of a very wide range of vehicles.

The word Mopar is an abbreviation of ‘Motor Parts’. The company started out as an American enterprise, producing anti freeze for Chryslers, but in 80 years the brand has transformed itself dramatically. Now it serves more than 150 markets around the world and has 500,000 products and parts available in its stores.

At the Geneva Motor Show recently, we caught up with Santo Ficili, head of Mopar service, parts and customer care for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He’s working to make the brand as well known in Europe as it is in the US.

‘Mopar is a business that started 80 years ago in the US. This year is a special anniversary,’ he confirmed. ‘Everyone knows the brand in the US and we’re trying to do the same in this region. In the Middle East too, everybody is aware of Mopar, but it’s not like that in Europe.

‘We’ve written a plan and we call it the ‘‘Mopar Master Plan’’. We’re trying to work to touch all of the points of contact with the aim of improving the loyalty of our customers. In doing this activity we want to develop the brand.’

To find out how Mopar went from being an antifreeze producer to stocking, developing and fitting parts for all FCA cars, it’s worth taking a quick look at the history books.

After its introduction in 1937, the Mopar brand quickly began to stand for more than just antifreeze. The company made a name for itself alongside the muscle-car era of the 1960s, cementing a legacy on the streets and at the dragstrip that by the decade’s end would have owners referring to their vehicles as ‘Mopar’ cars.

If you were to say Mopar in the UK today, you’d find it’s still a word that resonates with classic American car fans.

Over the past decade, Mopar has transformed into a global service, parts and customer-care brand for all FCA vehicle owners. In 2008, the Mopar Express Lane service, offering fast oil changes and more, was introduced at dealerships, with more than 1,000 operational today in the United States, and more than 1,750 open in 20- plus countries around the world.

Near Turin, home to FCA’s headquarters, in the village of Volvera, is the Mopar parts centre. This is where the brand has really been making a name for itself, priding itself on offering a massive range of parts and delivery around the world in just one day.

‘Our biggest challenge is to be ready on time. The result is 100 per cent success. When you go to a workshop or dealer, you need parts immediately available,’ said Ficili.

‘That’s our objective and it’s not easy. In our warehouse in Volvera we have 98 per cent of all parts available, so we are able to distribute parts in a day globally. The bigger part of our business is Europe, but we’re able to distribute parts to wherever you want.’

Ficili isn’t just interested in recognition within the business though. Mopar’s warehouse is proud to have achieved World Class Logistics certification for eliminating waste.

When it comes to parts, it’s not all about what’s standard for Mopar. Harking back to its distant modifying history, Mopar is developing its customisation offering too. The developments it is currently working on aren’t about performance though, but alterations to personalise a car, change its style or improve its off-road abilities.

At the Geneva Motor Show, the customised Jeep Wrangler ‘Mopar One’ was on the firm’s stand, demonstrating exactly what the brand is capable of when it comes to customisation and creating a complete car.

Ficili explained: ‘We are trying to offer customers a car from our brands with personalisation. The Wrangler is the first time we’ve done that.

‘Now we have a car with specific suspension, steering wheels, wheels and tyres. A customer can now buy this car. There is also a kit called Mopar One, but you can add a long list of other accessories.’

When it comes to customisation, the company now has more than 7,000 products to offer. When looking to develop a new customisation option for an FCA car, whether that’s a Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler or any other marque within the group, Mopar works carefully to make sure everything goes smoothly.

‘We work together. We have inside Mopar a key account manager who is working every day with the brands. We consider the needs of the customer in terms of customisation.

‘These can vary drastically. As you can imagine, they have to work on different cars from a Jeep Wrangler to a Fiat 500. We also produce functional accessories.’

Parts is the core business, but workshops are also critical to what Mopar does and how it will drive business in the future. Ficili has a plan, one that he wants to share.

‘We want to build the brand by doing what we do every day in the workshop, but talking to the customer through our workshops. We have a very big call centre in Milan, Italy, where 500 people work,’ he said.

‘Our core business is the distribution of parts. It’s the most important business inside the business, but there is another important activity. We are the reference point for all of the workshops that are servicing FCA cars.

‘We are teaching people how to fix the cars.

‘We’re trying to talk with the dealers because currently they are always thinking about how to sell more parts. That’s not what we want, so we’re trying to change. Our aim is to think about how we can serve the customer better. Then we can also sell parts, but as a consequence of finding out what they need. Loyalty from our customers is so important right now. That’s the problem that this industry has.’

One of Mopar’s initiatives is to introduce a programmed app in every workshop, so that when a customer arrives, the service adviser will welcome them with the software and create a file for that particular customer.

‘We want to serve the customer,’ said Ficili.

‘With this tablet you can follow a process, so when you are in front of a customer, you can ask what they need from you at that particular time.

‘They might say they need an oil change, but at the same time you can look at their car on the screen and help them understand what you can do – avoiding losing time. This also helps us to be extremely clear with customers about what we can offer and what we will be doing to their car, as well as looking professional.’

He continued: ‘Taking this path isn’t easy, because in aftersales you can find a whole range of people. We’re trying to educate our workshops.

‘Dealer principals are also more likely to go into the showroom than into the workshop. The loyalty of the customer, though, is built via the workshop and not the showroom. So we’re trying to change the behaviour of our dealers.’

Ficili’s ideas about how to improve service in the workshop aren’t just theory, as he is keen to explain. ‘What I’m saying isn’t from a book, this isn’t something I’ve studied but something I’ve lived,’ he said. ‘At the beginning of my career
I worked for 10 years in a garage, so this is my personal experience I’m working from. After that I went on to work as a sales manager too and I held a lot of other positions.

‘What I really think from this experience is that the most important relationship is the one between the workshop and the customer – I believe this more than 100 per cent.

‘Aftersales is more important than the sale of the car. You can’t just sell cars. Dealers think that aftersales is boring because the workshop is dirty and the customers are angry, but that’s not right.

‘That time with the customers is where you can change their opinion.

‘This is where you build relationships.’

The Mopar One

170301_Mopar_Mopar-one_HP

The Mopar One is a customised Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It’s the first example of what Mopar can do when customising a complete car and getting it type-approved.

It’s been given a Blue Chief livery, which is a tribute to the iconic 1977 Jeep Cherokee Chief, and the Mopar One accessory pack for complete customisation, which is guaranteed by the manufacturer and type-approved for sales in Europe.

This became available to order from March in Jeep dealerships and includes two-inch lifting kit, anti-roll bar and 17-inch by 8.5-inch Performance Gladiator black alloy rims, Hankook Dynapro 265/75 R17 oversized tyres, front and rear mud flaps, black fuel cap and distinctive Mopar badge.

By using the Wrangler configurator on the official website of the Jeep brand, users can view the list of accessories at leisure and add the Mopar One pack to their online configuration.

The car can either be bought already customised or, alternatively, customers can choose to add the Mopar One kit to their Wrangler.

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