Chrysler Australia has taken over distribution responsibilities for Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Fiat Commercial vehicles.
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On May 1, distribution rights of the Italian trio will shift from independent group Ateco to the factory group, joining Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge under the Chrysler Australia umbrella.

Chrysler Australia managing director Clyde Campbell confirmed the agreement today, which will see 17 passenger and 22 commercial vehicle dealerships report to the group’s Melbourne-based head office.

“We are delighted to be named the official distributor of Fiat, Fiat Commercial and Alfa Romeo, and we look forward to re-energising these brands in the Australian market,” Campbell said.

The local distribution takeover has been anticipated since January’s Detroit motor show where Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and senior company executives made clear their intentions to streamline the group’s operations around the world.

Despite the management shift for the Italian trio, fellow Fiat brands Ferrari and Maserati will not join them under Chrysler Australia, with the distribution rights of those two brands to remain with Ateco’s sister company European Automotive Imports.

Ateco currently markets Alfa Romeo’s only two production vehicles, MiTo and Giulietta, and is selling remaining stock of the discontinued 159 sedan and Sportwagon. The Brera, Spider and GT models were phased out last year.

In contrast, Ateco’s local Fiat line-up only includes vehicles based on the tiny 500 city car, including hatch, 500C convertible and sporty Abarth variants.

Fiat produces a range of other vehicles, including the Panda, Punto and Bravo – the latter two were sold here for a short time – but Ateco opted to focus on the 500 rather than build the brand with a full vehicle range.

Under Ateco, sales of the three Italian brands totalled 2635 last year, up 15.7 per cent over 2010. Meanwhile, Chrysler Australia’s three brands recorded 11,931 sales, representing a massive 62.2 per cent increase.

Campbell says he is confident his company – which could be rebranded Fiat Chrysler Australia – has the expertise and talent to take the Alfa Romeo and Fiat brands beyond their current niche status.

“We aim to apply the same enthusiasm that has driven such a leap forward in terms of our current Chrysler Australia sales.

“I have no doubt we will see a re-awakening in the levels of sales awareness and interest for the Fiat and Alfa brands under our management.”

Ateco executive chairman Neville Crichton says his group has proven there is a market for the Italian marques in Australia and believes Ateco has left them in a strong position for the future.

“There is no doubt that without Ateco, the Fiat Group could not even consider returning Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Fiat Commercial Vehicles to factory distribution,” Crichton said.

“As we say goodbye to Alfa Romeo and Fiat we will be welcoming into our company new brands and businesses that will benefit from the unique skills and talents we have to offer.”

Ateco will continue to distribute European brands Citroen and Lotus as well as China’s Chery and Great Wall, and is expected to increase its focus on new Chinese marques in the short term.