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Alfa Romeo Australia on track

Bravo Charlie: Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio (left) range will be expanded with more variants later this year, but the brand believes its best-selling model could still be the Giulia mid-size sedan(below).

Expanded Stelvio line-up expected to significantly bolster Alfa Romeo’s bottom line

Alfa Romeo logo4 Sep 2018

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) may have overestimated Alfa Romeo’s appeal globally, but FCA Australia president and CEO Steve Zanlunghi says the Italian brand is performing to expectations in the competitive luxury segment.
 
Speaking exclusively to GoAuto, Mr Zanlunghi said Alfa Romeo sales would grow in line with the expansion of the Stelvio range – the brand’s first SUV – after the introduction of the base petrol and diesel grades earlier this year.
 
“We haven’t fully launched the Stelvio line-up yet, so we think there is potential upside there,” he said.
 
“We’re in the process of launching the Ti, which is more of a performance version. Then right after that is going be the Stelvio QV … that's going be your real top-end AMG fighter. 
 
“But those haven’t launched yet, and I think when they do launch that will give us some additional growth, continued growth.”
 
Year to date, Alfa Romeo has sold 756 units, a 27.5 per cent increase over the same period last year, with the new Stelvio contributing 182 sales to the brand’s tally.
 
However, Alfa Romeo’s top seller on 368 units remains the Giulia mid-size sedan that was launched in early 2017 with the flagship 375kW/600Nm 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6-powered Quadrifoglio Verde (QV) before the model range grew to include other variants.
 
Mr Zanlunghi revealed the percentage mix of high-end versions and entry-level grades skewed heavily towards the former, but the Stelvio may not follow the same pattern.
 
Left: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia president and CEO Steve Zanlunghi
 
“When we launched Giulia, we launched with the high-end (variants) first, so we launched with QV, and what we call the Veloce which is kind of what the Ti would be to Stelvio,” he said. “The mix that we saw come in – it blew us away because it came in with the top two areas of the line-up, came in at about 60 per cent, 60-65 per cent. 
 
“We didn't anticipate that. We thought it was going be more towards a little bit the lower end, but the product plan was already locked in for the Stelvio where we launched first with the base versions, and now we're getting the performance versions (that) we know we have pent up demand.
 
“I think that (variant mix of Giulia) was a little bit rich, we’re being a little more conservative on it (variant mix of Stelvio). But trust me, if that mix comes in that way, we’ll all be happy.”
 
As for whether the Stelvio will outpace the Giulia given the Australian market preference for SUVs over sedans, Mr Zanlunghi said: “No, I wouldn’t say that, I wouldn’t make an assumption.
 
“We’d like to achieve our targets and if it’s number one, or Giulia’s number one, happy days.”
 
Looking at to the other Alfa Romeo models, the Giulietta small hatchback has slipped 17.5 per cent to 189 sales in the first seven months of the year, while the 4C mid-engined sportscar has accrued 17 new registrations, up 6.3 per cent year on year.
 
With standalone dealer showrooms introduced with the launch of the Giulia, Mr Zanlunghi said he will look to expand the number of retail outlets in line with expected sales growth.
 
“So 17 dealers, and then we’re going to look to expand ... here in areas that we don’t have representation that will not encroach on the existing dealer network,” he said. 
 
“When we launched the Alfa Romeo network, we kind of pruned back what the car network was. Initially, we had 12, then we expanded to 14, now we’re at 17, and we’re only expanding with dealers that are going to make the investment in the brand.”
 
Mr Zanlunghi confirmed he is happy with how the Italian marque is travelling locally, but former FCA chief operating officer Sergio Marchionne told investors in early June that the soft relaunch of Alfa Romeo in 2015 was a misstep, revising its 2018 global sales targets from 400,000 to around 130,000.
 
“Did we do it right? Did we execute it properly? The answer is no,” Mr Marchionne said at the time. “I think the way in which we entered the market and what we expected the market to do in response were totally misjudged, so it has taken us a lot longer to fix it. 
 
“I think that the period of time we got between now and 2022 and the product intervention … will make sure that we get there.”
 
Alfa Romeo’s five-year plan – announced at the time by Mr Marchionne – will see new versions of the 8C and GTV sportscars, as well as a new-generation Giulietta, join the existing line-up.
 
Mr Marchionne said: “If you had to ask me today … would I do it again? I surely would not do it the same way, but I certainly would take on the venture again and I think we would be a lot more careful in terms of estimating our capabilities of industrialising the technological solutions we put in place.”

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