Australian Fiat and Alfa Romeo distribution, which has recently changed hands from Ateco to a factory-backed operation led by Fiat Chrysler Australia, is set to experience a huge revamp with the two brands repositioning to appropriately cater for local customers both in terms of price and marketing approach.
Fiat will introduce the Panda, Punto and other models for the local market (currently only the 500 and its many variants are available) while Alfa Romeo is likely to see a significant change in pricing strategy to better position it against natural competitors, such as Volkswagen and Opel.
Speaking with the media at today’s Detroit auto show, the global head of Jeep and head of the Fiat Chrysler Group for Asia Pacific, Mike Manely, admitted that the fortunes of both Fiat and Alfa Romeo could be vastly improved with a new strategy, noting that Alfa Romeo was in dire need of a strategy change in Australia.
“Alfa Romeo absolutely represents an underdeveloped jewel in the crown. The brand itself is incredibly well known and has a wonderful heritage and it's one of those brands that people get passionate about,” Manley said.
He expects models such as the Giulietta to be repositioned to directly compete with other strong European contenders both on price and specification levels.
“If you look at the Giulietta and the quality of that vehicle, in terms of ride and dynamics, that was the vehicle, that platform is a very strong platform. When I think about Alfa Romeo, from my perspective, I certainly see the competitors being strong Europeans, I am not talking about Mercedes-Benz and the likes of that.”
Although distribution and marketing of both brands has long been out of the factory’s hands, Manley had no hesitation to admit that change was overdue.
“Repositioning in Australia, I think, is long overdue. If you look at the position of the vehicles in the past and the volumes we’ve achieved, I think that with the brands that we have we can be more successful. It’s very difficult for us to penetrate those segments with a vehicle that is positioned where it’s [currently] positioned.”
Apart from the change in model line-up and pricing strategy, the Fiat and Alfa Romeo dealership experience will also change, with many Chrysler and Jeep dealers expecting to take on Fiat (and in some cases, Alfa Romeo) distribution. Increasing the current network of around 16 dealers to potentially as many as 60.
Fiat Chrysler Australia is set to announce its big plans for Fiat and Alfa Romeo in mid February as it aims to not only continue the sales success of Jeep but grow its other brands to become an even bigger volume player in the Australian market.