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Alfa run-outs running amok

On the way: The nip-and-tucked 166 sedan will arrive in Australia in three months’ time.

Ill-timed run-outs and other factors dampen Alfa sales but not profitability

Alfa Romeo logo20 Oct 2003


WE all know Alfa Romeo likes to be different – but bringing down its sales volume when the Australian auto sector is booming like never before? C’mon.

Adamant that Aussies have not lost interest in the Italian brand, the Australian importer Ateco Automotive suggests the current sales contraction across all Alfa Romeo cars sold here is due to factors outside its control.

These include losing almost 200 cars in a fire on a transport ship last summer, experiencing volume restrictions (25 per cent tighter than expected) and seeing vehicle imports of its 156, Spider and GTV lines end some eight months before their replacements were due.

When the nip-and-tucked 166 sedan docks in three months’ time, the outgoing model will have been in run-out mode for almost a year.

"It’s not the ideal situation to be in simultaneous run-out with so many key models," said Alfa Romeo Australia spokesman Edward Rowe. “It just managed to happen that way.

"And what would have been the alternative? Not to do up these vehicles and have vehicles that were losing sales next year because they hadn’t been updated?" Ateco now believes its overall volume for 2003 will be 2200, which is 300 units fewer than its 2002 total and 600 fewer – no small figure for a niche marque – than the 2800 it had predicted it would achieve this year.

According to VFACTS figures, Alfa Romeo had sold 1470 cars to the end of September, 447 down on its total to the same point in 2002. Its 2004 forecast is set at a minimum of 2500 units.

"We want to grow the brand but there’s no point in growing the brand if you tear up money," Mr Rowe said.

"Sure, it would be real nice to sell 4000 vehicles but … the key issue for Ateco, and this is where a lot of car companies lose the plot, is to be profitable.

"If we’re profitable at 2200 vehicles and not profitable at 2800, I think it’s obvious which is the better business plan. There are some car companies who define what they are in the market by their volume, not their profitability."Mr Rowe said all countries had experienced supply shortages, stemming from Alfa Romeo boss Daniele Bandiera’s directive last year to revise the look of several models – not all that long before their new generation replacements and some new-sector entrants are due.

Among these will be all-wheel drive versions across the range, a folding-steel-roofed Spider (negating the need for an all-new GTV), a 167 coupe and a four-wheel drive wagon based on the Kamal concept and which is expected to offer two iterations of the Holden-built HFV6. One of these is said to be a twin-turbo, enabling Alfa to take on Porsche and its Cayenne.

166 sedan facelift – Jan 2004
GT coupe – mid-2004
147 hatch facelift – mid-2004
156 Sportwagon AWD – late-2004
All-new Spider convertible – late-2005
GT cabriolet – late-2005
Kamal SUV – 2006
All-new 157 sedan and Sportwagon – 2006
All-new 166 sedan and coupe – 2006
All-new 148 hatch – 2007

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