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Fiat-Kobelco dealers set to make up for lost time

PLANT National network unveils bullish target, while single dealer says it will be able to outsell Volvo and JCB

FIAT-KOBELCO and its dealers have unveiled ambitious targets as the manufacturer aims to get its new UK dealer network off to a running start.

The dealers are aiming to seize a 10 per cent share of the national excavator market in the first year, for which they would need to sell around 500 machines between them.

Bristol-based dealer Molson Holdings is so confident in the Fiat-Kobelco and Kobelco products, which it is selling in parallel, that it believes the dealer can outstrip its bigger rivals within two years.

Joint director Robin Powell said: 'Molson intends to sell more excavators than anyone else in the country by 2005, which means outselling the likes of Volvo, JCB and HM Plant.'

The firm also said it plans to expand from £33 million turnover this year to £60 million in 2004.

Last week Fiat-Kobelco confirmed the late addition of Ernest Doe as its East Anglian dealer alongside Lloyds for the north-east, north-west and Scotland and Molson for the rest of the UK.

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be handled by McSharry Bros, which switches from Fiat-Hitachi to take on the new dealership.

Molson threw down the challenge to Bridgwater firm HM Plant, which has switched to Hitachi after holding the previous Fiat franchise, Fiat-Hitachi.

Mr Powell added: 'One in five UK excavator owners have a Fiat machine, if previous sales figures are to be believed.

I can't believe they will all change overnight to another manufacturer.

'Hitachi made 35 per cent of the FiatHitachi machines, just as Kobelco makes 35 per cent of the Fiat-Kobelcos. So it is still a Fiat.'

Following apparent last minute negotiations with Fiat-Kobelco, Ernest Doe has taken the East Anglia territory.

It currently has construction kit in just five of its 18 depots and intends to continue to sell Hyundai excavators south of the river Thames.

It turns over £80 million, of which £20 million is in construction kit.

In the north and Scotland, Lloyds, a New Holland dealer with a £45 million turnover, will cover its regions from depots in Carlisle and Newcastle.

Observers believe the firm will need to have a presence in Scotland if it is to make serious headway in the country.

McSharry is also expected to require more infrastructure if it is to succeed with the larger territory of the whole of Ireland.

FK sales and marketing vice president Giuseppe Ferrulli admitted the UK would be a tough competitive market.

He said: 'There is a hard road ahead but I am confident that CNH will rise to the challenge.'

With a number of the dealers selling two CNH brands in parallel, dealers and manufacturer were relaxed about the strategy for matters such as pricing.

Mr Powell said: 'We've sold both brands to the same customers. Pricing tends to find its own level anyway.

'I have been surprised at the potential for cross-pollination between brands.

People who have been Kobelco customers are quite comfortable coming back to us for Fiat-Kobelco backhoes.'