It would not be accurate or fair to say that Alfa Romeo has disappeared in Australia, but the availability of only two models and just 665 sales this year has made it something of a phantom on the new-car market.
In reality, the brand has been treading water. The Giulietta, although recently updated, is an ageing car that does not best represent the brand’s aspirations. The 4C, although right up there as a hero of the brand, is limited in supply and exists as an especially niche offering.
But, with the new Giulia sedan closing in and the muscular new Stelvio SUV set to follow, the brand’s Australian operation is now preparing to ramp up its efforts to promote Alfa Romeo as a rival to the best in the premium market.
Steve Zanlunghi, new head of the Australian operation of Alfa Romeo parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), told press at the opening of a new flagship Melbourne showroom that the brand has big aspirations.
“[This is the] relaunch of Alfa Romeo brand. We have big plans and we won’t compromise,” he said.
“The quality of that vehicle, you can see and feel just by your short look at it this morning. Alfa Romeo will be our premium brand, by far. Definitely our premium brand and perhaps even more premium than before.”
That attitude goes well beyond the car itself, with Zanlunghi revealing details of the Alfa Romeo brand’s sales and dealership strategy.
“We’re being selective about who we’re taking on as partners. We are looking to cover 75 per cent of the industry for the product portfolio we have [75 per cent of the market will be no more than 30 minutes from an Alfa Romeo dealer].
In the interim, Alfa showrooms will continue to be paired with the Fiat brand, but Zanlunghi said the company expects to have 18 new-look dealers (such as the new Zagame showroom shown above) by the end of 2017.
“You won’t find any of our long-term dealers having competitive makes in the facilities. That is the absolute rule of thumb. We want the product to stand for itself. We believe in it.”
“We have volume aspirations, but not to take over the world with this brand. This is a premium contender.”
Zanlunghi would not be moved to confirm pricing, although he offered a clear hint: “We’re looking to price it right on BMW”, which means buyers should expect the Giulia to be positioned in the ballpark of the 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The Giulia will make its Australian debut in February, and Fiat Chrysler’s local arm has previously confirmed more than 100 orders for the hero twin-turbo V6 Quadrifoglio model.
The new Stelvio SUV will likely be the more popular car in the new Alfa Romeo range, however, and FCA Australia is forecasting big things.
“We have increased our volume aspirations for Stelvio by 25 per cent locally, just having seen it. That’s how strong we think that product is,” Zanlunghi said.
Above: the new Stelvio SUV at November’s LA motor show
Switching into salesman mode, Zanlunghi promised that buyers familiar with Alfa Romeo won’t know what hit them when they slide into one of the incoming new models.
“Anyone that’s intending to buy the typical, normal, German, safe car [should] take a look at us. We’re confident if we get the customer into our vehicles, they’ll be impressed.”
“The quality and design features of what you’re seeing in these cars is something you haven’t seen in an Alfa Romeo before,” he added.
Globally, the Giulia and Stelvio are expected to be followed by a Giulia wagon, a larger ‘full size’ sedan, a second smaller SUV, and a Giulietta-replacing small hatch.