FiatChrysler Australia says it’s determined to turn the Fiat and Alfa brands from niche to serious volume players in the Australian market.
The local subsidiary of the Italian-US alliance has introducing sharp driveaway pricing across the board since taking control of the two brands from independent importer Ateco in May 2012.
A $14,000 driveaway price was introduced for the style-driven Fiat 500 that used to cost in excess of $20,000, while thousands of dollars were also cut from the Alfa Romeo hatchbacks, the MiTo and Giulietta.
The more competitive positioning of the vehicles has created a notable spike in sales. While from a fairly low base, Alfa sales are up 136 per cent year on year and for the same period Fiat sales have increased more than 500 per cent.
Fiat sales have been driven by the 500 and the Freemont people-mover that is essentially a rebadged Dodge Journey. The company now has high hopes for its latest city cars, the Punto, and the most recently released Panda.
“We’ve (Fiat and Alfa) have been niche, we’ve done that,” said FiatChrysler boss Veronica Johns at the launch of the new Panda. “We don’t talk about [future] volumes, except that as consumers did with the 500 they will dictate whether we’re a volume player or not.
“We didn’t buy these brands [from Ateco] to operate the same volume they had been at for years. It’s all about bringing the right products to the market and all about the price.
“Niche was 2500 units last year [between Fiat and Alfa] and we’re not going to be [that low] this year.
“[With] our aspirations ... 2500 units is not a significant business, and certainly not significant with the number of dealers coming on board next year.”
FiatChrysler currently has 60 Alfa/Fiat dealers but says this number will expand to 100 in 2014.
Johns says the company is getting plenty of interest from dealers who don’t currently sell any of the FiatChrysler brands that include Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Alfa Romeo.
She also warned that while new product was important, the company was not prepared to make the mistake of previous management by importing any model available.
“There is such a thing as [product] overload and we’re happy with what we’re taking into 2014,” said Johns. “We need to start getting that right before we get too adventurous and wanting to bring in everything.
“You may remember that we brought in almost every Dodge and Chrysler we could get and we had Avengers and Sebrings [medium car twins] running side by side … convertibles and Crossfire.
“We had [Dodge] Nitros to [Jeep] Cherokees, and we didn’t do any of them well.
“The tricky thing we have is that we operate all these brands. If we were one brand, like Nissan, Toyota or Mazda, we would have 19 variants under that one brand. And because when we look at them independently – we’ve got this, we’ve got that – while consumers don’t understand that [link between the brands] we have a full line-up that can take you from small car to midsized car to large, from compact SUV to mid-sized SUV to large.”
The Fiat Panda 4x4, a more adventurous version of the city car, already looks to have been stopped in its planned tracks to Australia because the company doesn’t want to cannibalise sales of an upcoming baby Jeep.