Speaking with CarAdvice at the local launch of the Alfa Romeo 4C in Melbourne this week, recently appointed boss of Fiat Chrysler Australia Pat Dougherty discussed the company’s plans to restructure the current dealer setup and take Alfa Romeo upscale.
“The first step is we certainly have to get the dealers to understand that maybe if we are in a location that doesn’t make sense for an upscale brand we have to transition,” Dougherty said.
“We haven’t been able to see all of the actual individual dealers [yet], I am just in the process of trying to get a look at what we have. Separately we have done some studies that say these are the locations we would like to be in, so I think we have to figure out how we can migrate to those locations, where the market is for that product.”
Dougherty believes there’s substantial market opportunity for a relaunched and more upscale Alfa Romeo in Australia.
“If there’s ever a brand that has just been waiting for us to explode on the scene and do this right, it’s Alfa Romeo.”
The Alfa Romeo 4C is the first of a range of new vehicles that will see the Italian brand target the dominant German luxury trio, a challenge that Dougherty admits is “enormous”.
Alfa Romeo is set to unveil a BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class rival in Milan in June. With that product expected to head to Australia in 2016, it will back up the 4C before a host of other products ranging from larger sedans to SUVs and coupes arrive in the following years.
Nonetheless, the move upscale requires significant dealer network restructuring to better match the upcoming models.
“It has to align for the timing of the product,” he said. “We need the dealers to invest and we invest in the dealers and brand, so the timing of getting that to all come together is like a bit of puzzle.”
One of Alfa Romeo Australia’s priorities will be to disconnect dealerships that are currently joined with Chrysler brands.
“You have situations like today we have Fiat and Alfa co-located with Chrysler Jeep Dodge product and it may be okay for Fiat, but for the future of Alfa it’s just not where we would like it to be.
“We certainly think we are over-dealered for what we are trying to do, but is it 20 dealers or 10 dealers? We are trying to work it out.”
Another point of difference going forward will be brand’s marketing message, moving away from retail campaigns and dealer listings on popular car sales sites with price-driven sales tactics.
“The last thing we want to see is someone throwing Alfa Romeo at a website and discounting the product.”
Alfa Romeo’s move to target Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz will be done in its own way, however, with Dougherty admitting that it will seek to stand alone on its design and emotional appeal.
“We are not going to be those [German] brands. We are going to be Alfa Romeo and I think that that’s different.”