Alfa Romeo’s Australian division has managed the rather impressive feat of talking its Italian parents into making a manual version of the updated Giulietta QV just for the local market.
The revised Giuletta Quadrifoglio Verde hot hatch was launched this week, headlined by the addition of a lighter, re-worked version of the existing 1.75-litre turbo engine matched to a new TCT six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
This beating heart, as Alfa has been endlessly keen to point out, has been transplanted directly from the new mid-engined 4C coupe — a TCT-only proposition.
Because of this, markets elsewhere including Europe now have TCT-only Giulietta QVs, in place of the old manual-only model. But this is not the case in Australia, thanks to the local arm’s product strategy team headed up by director Zac Loo.
Australia also offers a QV with the pre-update 1.75-litre engine (which has 173kW compared to the TCT version’s 177kW) matched to a six-speed manual gearbox.
But crucially, all the new cabin updates from the facelifted model feature, meaning this version gets the integrated 6.5-inch screen with satellite navigation and Bluetooth audio streaming that the old car lacked.
An Australian arm of a multinational car company getting a local-specific drivetrain option is uncommon, given our relatively small volumes — even given the disproportionate love for hot hatches here.
“Some drivers still want manual, that’s their preferred choice,” Loo told us this week. “We put our hand up and said ‘we’d like to keep the manual, the mix is strong, and we see an opportunity’.
“I’m not aware if any other regions have put their hand up as well. I’m not aware of any other markets pushing like we did, but from our situation we left the dialogue going.
“At one stage it looked like we might not get it through,” he added. “We’ll see how it goes… we’re confident there are still drivers who prefer the manual. We do think the TCT will be the stronger preference, but the feedback has been there are still buyers there who prefer the manual.”
Loo explained to CarAdvice something of the process of lobbying to get a unique model for this market.
“Effectively we have a two-tier [relationship] with Italy, we can go direct but we also have regional support. When we have a new model we build a case and come back with all the data [on] what our customers specifically have been looking for.
“We say ‘this is what we want from the product, and can you deliver?'"
One potential issue down the track is the shelf-life of the 173kW engine to which the six-speed manual gearbox is matched, given Alfa is producing the lighter new version for the 4C with a revised exhaust system.
“We’re not entirely sure if there’ll be a shelf life, lots depends on our demand,” Loo said.
Much of this, you expect, also depends on whether other markets follow Australia’s lead and demand a manual gearbox option, either on the 173kW engine or — even better — on the new 177kW version (which would open the door to a manual 4C, we hasten to add).
Such an event occurred when another Fiat Chrysler Australia coup, getting the Chrysler 300 Core edition (pictured above) made just for local shores, was picked up in the US shortly after launch. Loo was also involved in that process.
“US ended up taking Core… Australia built the case,” Loo said.
“In the global context Australia is still a small market, but with the phenomenal growth of the last few years we have a bigger voice.”
In fact, Chrysler’s global vice president of product strategy Stephen Bartoli is visiting Australia within the next few weeks for a single day. That’s a long way to come, unless more wheels were in motion for the local market… right?