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Exclusivity key to Abarth brand

Pastiche niche: Fiat-based Abarth is trying to strike a balance between increasing sales number and maintaining an air of rarity with its products.

Abarth to focus on raising brand awareness while maintaining niche reputation

Abarth logo1 Nov 2017

By ROBBIE WALLIS

FIAT performance arm Abarth faces the challenge of increasing awareness and sales of its niche brand and products, while retaining an exclusive and rare edge.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the refreshed 595 range, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia head of Abarth Fulvio Antonelli said the brand hoped to increase sales but maintain exclusivity.

“We want to sell as many as we can get,” he said. “We don’t have a finite number. We want to grow Abarth share and sales, and so far that has been happening over the last few weeks, which is good, since we launched the range.

“It (increasing brand awareness) will always form part of our overall strategy for our total brands from Fiat to everything else, but we also want to keep it a little bit exclusive as well, so we don’t really want to go too mainstream in terms of marketing.

“But in saying that, what you will see is more and more what I would call ‘above the line’ advertising, more and more for Abarth, something that we haven’t done a lot of in the past but we want to really start to market the brand and its products.”

Another way Abarth plans to improve brand awareness is by introducing various limited editions of current models over the coming years instead of expanding the range to include more vehicles.

The limited-edition models will be existing members of the range (595 and 124 Spider), skewed to either a higher level of performance or luxury.

“So we think there’s definitely appeal for a top-end Biposto – a performance limited-edition – but also we think high-end luxury in terms of associations with Gucci or other labels,” said Mr Antonelli.

FCA Australia has no plans to expand the Abarth range beyond the two current models, given the relatively small range of options to choose from.

Internationally, Abarth tunes the Fiat Punto hatch, but the Punto was dropped from the Australian line-up in 2015.

Talk of introducing an Abarth-branded Fiat 500X crossover also failed to materialise into a production model for the Australian market.

Abarth has trimmed the 595 range from three model grades to two, using feedback from owners and dealers to make the 595 buying experience simpler.

“One of the things we really wanted to do was simplify the range to make it easier to order, because if we make it easy to order for our dealers, they’ll order the right product, we’ll sell more cars,” Mr Antonelli said.

“So we felt when we had the three models plus all the combinations plus all the colours and everything else, there’s huge complexity for what should be a niche kind of product.

“Our research also told us our customers were buying top-end or entry-level – no one really wanted that middle one, so we’ve cut it.

“And so far the feedback has been fantastic – all the dealers are saying ‘simple to order, I know what our customers want’, it’s down now to options and some colours – easy. That’s what we wanted to do.”

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