We’ve been scratching our heads at Autocar towers recently, trying to work out why we haven’t seen more Fiat 500s on the roads, and why some forecourts now appear to be cutting their price tags.

Fiat500_011 But this week I think I have just have come up with the answer. My girlfriend is in the market for a replacement for her seven-year-old Honda Civic, and the latest Punto comes out highly in the ‘style for price’ evaluation that’s a key part of the process.

So in early August she visited the Fiat website and left a message requesting a test drive at her local dealer.

Nothing happened. Then more nothing happened. Then last Saturday, after three weeks of silence, our local Fiat dealer called; he’d “just received the message” and was ready to offer a test drive “within the week”. Efficient it was not.

Our local dealer’s grasp of the Fiat options list seems equally flaky. We were told that Eleganza is the only model that has air-con when in fact the Dynamic spec has it too (Eleganza adds climate control, stat fans). Oh, and if we wanted a car, delivery could take “between two weeks and two months”, which seemed a little vague.

My point is this: if Fiat is making such hard work of selling the Punto, its procedures must seem doubly poor when it comes to the cute, stylish 500, a car designed to appeal to an entirely different (and potentially more discerning) market.

I can just imagine a Mini buyer ‘interfacing’ with the Fiat sales process and then heading straight back whence they came, deposit for a new Cooper in hand.