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Ateco empire grows

Flagship: Sydney's new home for Ferrari and Maserati - and Ateco Automotive's new HQ.

New home for largest privately owned vehicle importer as Ateco eyes yet more growth

6 Feb 2010

NOT content with opening its new $32 million headquarters and Ferrari/Maserati dealership in Sydney last week, Ateco Automotive says it will increase the number of its retail outlets from a current 120 to about 200 next year.

Australia’s newest Ferrari and Maserati dealership formally opened its doors on Wednesday night by staging Australian debuts of Ferrari’s new 458 Italia super-coupe and Maserati’s new GranCabrio convertible in front of more than 550 invited guests.

The official opening of Ferrari Maserati Sydney completes a revamp of both Italian brands’ representation in Australia, following the opening of all-new retail outlets in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, and upgrades premises in Adelaide and Auckland.

“We’ve achieved our goal of building the best car dealership in Australia,” said Ateco Automotive governing director – and executive chairman of Ferrari/Maserati distributor European Automotive Imports (EAI) – Neville Crichton.

“This magnificent new Sydney dealership means that we now have a network of dealership that can stand comparison with the best in the world.

“Wherever our owners visit a dealership they will be welcomed by a unique level of customer service in facilities that match the legendary performance, technology and style of their cars.”

Four years after assuming the distribution rights for both exclusive brands in Australia and New Zealand, however, the founder of Australia’s largest privately owned vehicle importer/distributor, who will celebrate his 65th birthday this year, says Ateco’s expansion plans are far from over.

Mr Crichton, who bought into the publicly listed Australian Tractor and Engineering Company before privatising it in 1985, said he had no succession plan for a business that has an annual turnover of about $600 million – down from about $1 billion when Ateco also distributed Kia vehicles and had a total of 160 dealers nationally.

“I don’t have a plan,” he said. “Under (Ateco managing director) Ric (Hull) we have a very good management team that’s very capable of running the business.

“I’ll run it as long as I’m enjoying it – and I am.”

Mr Crichton – whose other great love is yacht racing and who is a multiple outright winner of the Sydney to Hobart race and, under Alfa Romeo sponsorship, numerous high-profile ocean races in Europe – said he expected Chinese brands to eventually add 20,000 vehicles to Ateco’s bottom line.

 center imageCurrently the Australian distributor for Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat and, under EAI, Ferrari and Maserati, Mr Crichton added Great Wall Motors to his portfolio last year and has confirmed that Chery will join it in July. Ateco is also in negotiations with at least two other brands in China and India.

Mr Crichton ruled out the possibility of selling Ateco, EAI or any vehicle franchises – at least for now – despite interest from potential buyers.

“People are knocking on our doors, put it that way,” he said. “You sell at the top of the market, not at the bottom. The business is not for sale, but I’m a dealer.”

Mr Crichton said he expected new-vehicle sales to lift only slightly in 2010, following last year’s retail incentives and the federal government’s small business tax break for capital expenditure including company cars, which have pulled forward many 2010 vehicle sales into 2009.

“(Sales) this year will be better, but not by much,” he said. “If it nudges (total sales of) a million we’ll be lucky.

As one of the world’s few privately owned Ferrari importers, Mr Crichton said his business was a “dying breed”.

“We’re one of the only independent importers in the world for Ferrari,” he said. “We’re a dying breed, so we’ve got to do a good job.”

Following the overall industry’s downward sales trend in 2009, Ferrari sales last year in Australia were down by 36.2 per cent, while Maserati was down 40.3 per cent, Citroen was down 40.7 per cent and Fiat was down 11.0 per cent. The only shining lights in Mr Crichton’s stable were Alfa Romeo (up 2.7 per cent) and the newly established Great Wall brand, which has now notched up 2000 sales.

Mr Crichton said EAI was currently investigating the potential for a Ferrari merchandise outlet at Sydney’s international airport terminal.

“Nothing is confirmed, but we’ll get more aggressive in that area,” he said, adding that for now he was happy for Ferrari and Maserati to have “the best dealer network in Australia”.

On hand for the official opening of Ferrari Maserati Sydney, which occupies the four lower levels of Mr Crichton’s brand-new five-storey 12,000 square-metre building at Waterloo, was Ferrari SpA CEO Amedeo Felisa and the global corporate director of Maserati SpA, Raffaele Fusilli.

Both men made their first visits to Australia for the event, with Mr Felisa travelling to Melbourne to inspect Bobby Zagame’s new Ferrari dealership the next day.

The Ferrari chief described Ferrari Maserati Sydney as “one of the best Ferrari dealerships in world”, while Mr Fusilli said he was “proud to be able to welcome Maserati owners to the best Maserati dealer in the world”.

Located at the junction of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets 10 minutes from the CBD, Ferrari Maserati Sydney – which is the first outlet to adopt Ferrari’s new interior corporate identity globally – replaces separate sales and service facilities in William Street and Artarmon, more than tripling the size of sales and service facilities for both brands in Australia’s largest city.

“Bringing these facilities together under one roof is central to our plan to expand our business and offer the highest levels of customer service,” said dealer principal Edward Butler.

“Our sales team will sell the first car to a customer but it is the quality of our customer service and our ability to deliver to customers an all-encompassing Ferrari and Maserati ownership experience, which fully encapsulates the passion and style of these unique marques, that will encourage our customers to come back for their next Ferrari and Maserati.

“Our aim with developing this new dealership has been simple – to provide a quality of service and a working environment that is equal or better to anything in the world.

“Indeed, with Ferrari Maserati Sydney providing a world debut for an entire new image for Ferrari, it would be fair to say we are one of the best Ferrari and Maserati dealerships in the world.”

The dealership comprises two underground basement carparks with parking for up to 150 cars and a three-bay car detailing area with studio-quality lighting, while at ground level there is a concierge desk and reception area alongside a 950 square-metre Ferrari workshop with nine service bays and a 1195 square-metre new-car showroom.

Within the street-level showroom are eight display locations under overhead light boxes, angled ‘floating’ display areas on a liquid-polymer single-piece gloss floor, a lounge area with cafe, library and picture gallery, five offices, a meeting room and merchandise and Atelier departments for both Ferrari and Maserati.

Level one accommodates the used-car showroom, cafe area, merchandise centre, two offices, 1000 square-metre Maserati workshop with 10 work bays, two offices, Ateco’s technical training centre and three display bays – one with a hoist.

Finally, occupying the top level is Ateco’s news HQ, comprising a1475 square-metres of office space, 14 offices, 45 open-plan cubicles, one boardroom, four meeting rooms, a canteen with commercial kitchen and two lunch areas.

Including Alfa, Fiat, Citroen, parts and administration, Ateco currently has 69 direct staff, while EAI (Ferrari and Maserati) employs nine. A further 18 are employed in New Zealand, with 17 more based at Ateco’s Arundel Park parts centre and its Melbourne regional office.

Ferrari Maserati Sydney has 29 staff, including four for sales, seven for administration and customer service, and 18 for service and parts.

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