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Chrysler Australia now managing Fiat brands

Watch this space: The full impact of Chrysler Australia locally managing Ateco’s Italian brands, such as Ferrari, is yet to be seen.

Chrysler Australia managing Fiat’s Italian brands but Ateco still distributor

Chrysler logo6 Mar 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

UPDATED: 3.55PM 6/03/2012CHRYSLER Group Australia (CGA) claims to have taken over brand management of Fiat Group Automobiles’ Italian brands, including those Fiat-owned brands that are currently the responsibility of Sydney-based distributor Ateco.

This is not a full merger of operations as has been speculated since Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the Detroit motor show in early January that there would be a “repositioning” of Fiat-Chrysler in Australia within “60 to 90 days”.

Ateco Group imports Fiat passenger cars and commercial vehicles, Alfa Romeos plus, trading as European Automotive Imports, exotic brands Ferrari and Maserati.

CGA managing director Clyde Campbell told GoAuto at the recent MY2012 Jeep Wrangler launch that the company has “not even looked into” incorporating Ateco’s brands in its new Port Melbourne premises.

“If we take them off (Ateco) we will find room ... As far as Fiat is concerned, Chrysler Australia is responsible for managing the relationship with Ateco rather than Fiat SpA.”

However, a spokesperson for Ateco Automotive has told GoAuto that Ateco is still the Fiat Group distributor in Australia and that talks are underway with Fiat about its future.

He said that in no way is Ateco reporting to, or responsible to, Chrysler Australia.

 center imageLeft: Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. Below Lancia Ypsilon and Delta.

Mr Campbell said talks were ongoing and that the media would be the first to know of any announcement but hinted that more tangible changes are to come: “When we roll it out completely that will become a bit more evident.”“The speculation is there because we have merged entities overseas and we want to stop the instability, so will finalise (within Mr Marchionne’s 60-90 day time period) any intention we might have or not have, to put it to bed.”

It has been speculated that a merger of Chrysler’s American and Italian operations in Australia will leave Sydney-based Ateco Automotive with just French brand Citroen, British sportscar specialist Lotus and Chinese brands Great Wall and Chery.

However Mr Campbell is of the opinion that Ateco has “done a very good job in the way they manage their brands”.

“If we had a different opinion to that we would have certainly come out sooner and worked more strongly with Ateco to lift their performance.”

He agreed Ateco has been occasionally “hamstrung” with the breadth of products it can offer in Australia.

“I know from talking to (Ateco governing director) Neville Crichton that there is significant upside in the brands and the dealers are quite passionate about it too,” he said.

“Just because of my time in the industry I know some of their dealers. They have a pretty good stable of dealers, with some pretty big names in there and they all seem to love those Italian brands as well.”

Asked whether Australia can expect to see badge-engineered Lancias from the product-starved Chrysler brand any time soon, Mr Campbell said it was something the company had “just started to look at”.

The European Chryslers comprise the Fiat 500-based Ypsilon light car and small-segment Delta hatch.

After helping Chrysler emerge from bankruptcy in 2009, Fiat became the majority shareholder of the ailing Detroit giant last July and increased its shareholding to 58.5 per cent in January this year.

Fiat is reportedly planning to acquire the remaining 41.5 per cent from the United Auto Workers’ Union health-care trust fund next year.

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