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Alfa Romeo now separate FCA Australia entity

Break away: Splitting Alfa from its more mainstream brands will allow FCA Australia to better position the brand for the future.

FCA Australia breaks Alfa Romeo away internally to better take on German brands

2 Mar 2017

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has formally divided Alfa Romeo from its other brands within its local operations, resulting in separate marketing, distribution, and aftersales care from Fiat and the Fiat Professional commercial vehicle division, as well as Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge.

With five more all-new models due by the end of this decade, the aim is to better align Alfa Romeo both internally and externally with buyer expectations and demands against luxury competitors such as Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

To be formally announced in the coming weeks, the move will lead to specialised personnel and other staff changes within FCA Australia management in Melbourne beginning this month, to help move the brand forward after nearly 20 years of stagnation in this market.

“We’ve realised that what works for Alfa may not work for Fiat, may not work for Jeep, may not work for Chrysler,” according to FCA Australia senior communications manager, Glenn Butler. “We need a total brand focus and this will be it.

“We’ve turned how we look at our brand focus on its head. Instead of having marketing experts working across the whole business, across the whole brands, we now have a team working solely on Alfa Romeo.”

It is believed that FCA Australia is investigating a number of aftersales and customer service initiatives exclusive to Alfa Romeo, beyond the separate dealership sites announced in the middle of last year, that should further help set it apart from some if its competitor’s efforts.

These could include owner concierge services, more personalised vehicle servicing regimes and better peace of mind initiatives.

However, Mr Butler declined to comment on whether the latter might include a Jeep-style five-year warranty and capped-price servicing, though nothing is out of the question.

“We want owners to be proud again,” he said. “We want to give them reason to keep coming back to the brand that is clearly loved and cherished.

“And that’s one of the key aspects about this particular marque. Many people want to see Alfa Romeo succeed. I don’t think anybody who loves cars wants to see it fail. A strong and competitive Alfa Romeo would be good for the industry.”

Mr Butler explained that creating the division between the premium and more mainstream brands reflects the design and engineering ethos applied to the new Giulia during 2013-14, when FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne identified the need for a separate breakaway mentality in order to create a vehicle capable of beating rivals such as the BMW 3 Series.

“It’s an extension of the development of the Giulia’s skunkworks development gestation,” he said, “where there is a purity of thought and direct line of result to help achieve our ambitions”.

Mr Butler added that while he does not envisage the Giulia outselling the key German competitors, the result means that the groundwork is being implemented for the brand to become an ongoing and sustainable success.

“We don’t expect it to be number one, but that’s not our goal,” he claimed.

“Our goal is to deliver the cars and the premium experience our owners expect from Alfa Romeo.

With previous unsuccessful attempts to take on the German luxury triumvirate in Australia in 1998 with the Fiat Tipo-based GTV/Spider and 156, and again in 2006 with the 159/Brera/Spider (which were devised to share platforms with General Motors brands at the time), Mr Butler conceded that Alfa Romeo has not always delivered on its brand promise or heritage in this segment.

But he added that he believed the Giulia was more than capable of standing proud in a class dominated by the Germans.

“We want to offer something different to premium sports sedan buyers, but without the compromises some of our previous products demanded in the past,” he said. “We are confident this is the most complete Alfa Romeo ever, and it delivers in all areas.”

As reported last year, the Giulia is just the first of six vehicles due by the end of 2020.

It will be joined by the BMW X5-sized Stelvio SUV unveiled at the LA Auto Show last November and due early next year in Australia, and then a smaller and larger SUV respectively later on, as well as a proposed sports coupe, a possible convertible replacement for the iconic Spider, and a successor for the Giulietta hatch.

Whether all will utilise the Giulia’s (and Stelvio’s) rear-drive focused Giorgio platform has yet to be formally decided, we hear, although reports out of Europe suggest that the latter would best fit in with Alfa’s (and Mr Marchionne’s) ambitions for the 107-year-old marque.

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