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Alfa promises AWD supplies

Kamal concept: Alfa Romeo's first cross-over should be here in late 2005.

Alfa Romeo promises an Aussie resurgence on the back of better supply and new AWDs

9 Jul 2004

ALFA ROMEO Australia says it has finally rid itself of the supply problems that have plagued it in recent times, and a raft of new all-wheel drive models will be the most obvious evidence of an improved import channel from the Italian factory.

Speaking at the recent launch of the new Alfa Romeo GT coupe, which goes on sale here in V6 form before both the UK and Japan, the boss of importer Ateco Automotive Neville Crichton said increased sales in the second half of 2004 as a result of freer supply would see the brand increase total volume this year.

"Alfa has struggled this year because of product," he said. "We’ll be ahead of last year but only by maybe a couple of hundred. I think we did around 2000 last year, so I’d like to think we’ll do around 2200 this year – but I’d like to be doing around 2500. It’s a matter of the amount of product we get, but we’ll certainly be better than last year." To May this year 674 Alfas have been sold, down from 807 in the same period in 2003. Australians’ penchant for Alfa’s Selespeed sequential manual transmission is one reason blamed for the supply/demand imbalance. Accounting for 80 per cent of Australian Alfa sales, Selespeed represents less than one per cent of total global Alfa production.

"We have a major, major supply problem out of Italy," said Mr Crichton. "But from June we’ve got stock in reasonable volumes, so June sales will be up considerably from where they’ve been running. And the second half of the year will certainly be better than the first half of the year, and that’s strictly just on availability." However, while funds for the development of new models have continued despite a management reshuffle at financially troubled parent company Fiat, industrial action has also taken its toll on Australian supply.

"Alfa have actually had no restriction on budgets for development," said Mr Crichton.

"In fact, the cars they weren’t going to facelift they’ve gone ahead and developed – new cars that we’ll see over the next two or three years that were sort of outside the original budget.

"But where it has affected us is Fiat have been putting staff off and it’s created supply problems within the assembly side of the business. There have (also) been a massive amount of strikes over the past six months and just crazy things like logistic strikes or one particular supplier has fallen over. So the problem has been not so much been money, but outside suppliers.

It’s believed that of the two major strikes this year, for which Fiat was not at fault, one resulted in some 400 Australian-bound Alfas sitting in a compound for six weeks.

"(They were) partly cars that customers specifically ordered, but the car we order today we don’t see for five months. So by the time it goes through the system and gets shipped here, we’re looking at five months out with what we’re ordering. So we certainly have to double guess what the public want. And we certainly lost some retails over that – absolutely." Following GT on sale in July will be the facelifted 166 luxury sedan, but ARA then faces an agonising 18-month wait for the new-generation all-wheel drive Alfas, which will benefit from the improved supply lines.

In the absence of the left-hand drive-only 156 Crosswagon AWD, first of them will be Alfa’s SUV, the compact Kamal AWD, which will go on sale here in late 2005.

It will be closely followed by an all-new Spider, complete with the latest-trend folding metal roof that will make it the replacement for both the current Spider and the GTV coupe.

Due to debut at next year’s Frankfurt motor show as the first Alfa to feature a Holden-built V6, the front and all-wheel drive Spider should go on sale here around Melbourne motor show time in March 2006.

26 center image Alfa’s new performance flagship, the Brera supercar, is also expected on sale here in 2006. Five or six local customers have reportedly expressed interest, including Mr Crichton himself, but it’s not yet known whether Brera will be homologated for use on Australian roads.

The glut of new Alfa models due on sale here in 2006 also includes the replacement for Alfa’s 156 medium sedan, the 157, around mid-year, while redesigned 167 and 148 models should appear in 2007.

What’s coming from Alfa Romeo:
Facelifted 166 sedan – July
New Kamal SUV – late 2005
New Brera supercar – early 2006
New Spider CC – March 2006
New 157 medium sedan – June 2006
New 157 Sportwagon – July 2006
New 157 Crosswagon – August 2006
New 167 large sedan – 2007
New 148 small hatch – 2007

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