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Alfa Romeo more than just an ‘alternative’

Sedan plan: The next phase of Alfa Romeo’s resurrection is the launch of the Giulia that will arrive early next year.

Heritage and strong product the keys to Alfa Romeo’s success in Australia

8 Apr 2016

ALFA Romeo will be re-established as a premium offering to rival its German and British counterparts when the famed marque is effectively relaunched globally later this year.

The Italian car-maker will kick off the next phase of its plan to re-launch in key markets with the Australian arrival of the hotly-anticipated Giulia mid-size sedan in early 2017.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia director marketing and product strategy Zac Loo said Alfa Romeo’s long history in Australia was a great base from which to build a brand, but added that quality product would be the key to growth.

“There is a lot of passion for the Alfa brand, research has shown from an awareness standpoint it is still very high,” he told journalists at a media event in Melbourne this week.

“We are not starting off a low base in that regard. There is still a re-set on the expectations of what the brand is and a large part of that is driven by product. We can tell anyone whatever they want but it is the product that sings the loudest song.”

Mr Loo added that the Alfa brand would stand on its own as a serious premium offering and would not just be a quirky Italian substitute for a higher-volume German brand.

“We don’t see ourselves as an alterative. It is a confident choice. Italy has a proud heritage of building performance cars.

“We are confident the product is going to deliver.”

According to Mr Loo, there is significant pre-launch buzz around the Giulia well before the order books have been opened.

“We haven’t opened up officially, we are just laying down plans for what we want that to look like.

“But we already have expressions of interest. We are moving towards a more formalised program in the next couple of months, which will qualify that interest and transition it through when we get to the vehicle launch as well.”

An FCA Australia spokesperson told GoAuto that there have already been more than 2000 expressions of interest, ahead of a formal registration process.

Revealed mid-last year in fire-breathing Quadrifoglio guise, the Giulia will be pitched as a rival to the ever-growing list of premium mid-sizers that includes the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes’ sales-grabbing C-Class, Audi’s impressive new A4 and Jaguar’s giant-slaying XE, as well as the Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50 and Volvo S60.

Alfa lifted the covers off the full Giulia line-up at last month’s Geneva motor show, revealing three spec levels – Giulia, Super and Quadrifoglio – and six engine and transmission combinations including a 149kW 2.0-litre petrol with eight-speed automatic transmission, 112kW and 134kW 2.2-litre diesel with six-speed manual or eight-speed auto, and 380kW 2.9-litre V6 BiTurbo with a six-speed manual gearbox. While Australian specification is yet to be revealed, FCA Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty said the car-maker would have “a very good mix” of variants from launch.

Mr Dougherty would not be drawn on Alfa Romeo sales targets in Australia, but said the company has high hopes for the brand.

“We have high aspirations for the product and we think we can achieve a pretty strong foothold. We have all the knowledge and expertise to set up and run a premium dealer network.”

While the Alfa Romeo stable – the 4C sportscar and Giulietta hatch – currently shares showroom space with its Italian sister brand Fiat, Mr Dougherty said the company is looking to separate Alfa with some standalone dealerships, although he acknowledged this could take time.

“We have to make sure we can get ourselves in the right spots and in the right markets. That may take a little bit more time to do that. Some of it may come sooner rather than later. There is opportunity in some segments – we already know some dealers that have already acquired property because it has become available.”

Mr Dougherty said the investment from FCA into the Alfa brand highlights its commitment to ensuring it succeeds.

“We have now committed €6 billion ($A9.06b) to building all this new product.

And we have dedicated a lot of our engineering resources from southern Italy to help us make sure … that the end result is what we want. And so far everything we have seen from the testing is that the vehicles are delivering on the performance.”

FCA announced in late-January that it had adjusted its five-year strategic plan, which impacted the scale and pace of the Alfa Romeo model rollout.

Following the Giulia’s global launch this year will be a mid-size SUV based off the same platform and dubbed Stelvio that will launch in 2016/17, while two more SUVs, a full-size sedan, a new hatchback to replace the ageing Giulietta and a pair of “speciality” models will launch between 2017 and 2020.

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