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The Italian job

Directional drive: As part of a worldwide program, Fiat Group's Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands consolidate under single distributors.

Ateco snares Aussie distribution rights for Ferrari and Maserati

Ferrari logo18 May 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

TWO of the motoring world’s most revered supercar marques will become more prominent in Australia from mid-October, when local distribution of Ferrari and Maserati cars changes hands.

Ateco Automotive announced on Monday it will seize the Australian and New Zealand distribution rights for the two iconic Italian brands from The Sutton Group, which has distributed Ferrari and Maserati for eight and six years respectively.

According to Ateco owner and governing director Neville Crichton, the move is part of a worldwide program to consolidate the Fiat Group’s luxury and performance brands – including Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo - under single distributors.

"We’ve had an association with Alfa Romeo for some time (since Ateco returned the brand to Australia in 1998).

"The amalgamation within Fiat of Alfa Romeo and Maserati (in a new business formed under Karfl-Heinz Kalbfell on April 1) probably speeded the transfer up," he said.

Mr Crichton said Ateco, which has also imported Citroen cars in Australia since 1994, would also take over retail sales of Ferrari and Maserati cars in Sydney.

He said that although Ferrari and Maserati model pricing would not change under Ateco distribution, the company’s greater economy of scale would allow a higher level of promotion for both brands.

"The price is set worldwide and that’s the price. (But) I think we can probably do it a bit more efficiently, which means putting more into promoting the product and certainly we intend to look seriously into the dealer network.

"Our front of shop will be totally different for each franchise of course, but there are certainly savings to be had on the logistic side of the business. So we’ll be able to ramp up the promotion of both brands, absolutely."Mr Crichton said the current three-year-plus waiting list for Ferrari’s F430 is also unlikely to change.

"Supply will always be tight with Ferrari. I think our relationship with the Italians will help, but I don’t think Ferrari will ever be to the stage where we’ll fill orders.

"I think Suttons were sitting on about 400 orders for the 430 and they’re getting 60 or 70 a year."It is believed the billion-dollar Ateco operation, which this year will deliver more than 35,000 vehicles in Australia and New Zealand through a 180-dealer network, will take delivery of six limited-edition Ferrari Superamerica models this year.

As previously reported, Ateco will relinquish the Australian distribution rights it has held for Kia since 2000 around the second quarter of 2006.

 center imageMr Crichton (left) said the Ferrari/Maserati deal was unrelated to this, and that while it provided Ateco with an unprecedented level of prestige, it was not part of a wider plan for Ateco to chase more upmarket franchises.

"It’s a totally different operation (to Kia). None of the Kia people will be involved with it. Kia this year will sell 30,000 cars. Maserati and Ferrari will sell close to 300. I don’t think you can go any further upmarket than Ferrari.

"Naturally, we want to make money out of it but that’s not our only target – it gives the group a lot of prestige and I think we can go out and do as good a job as anyone in the world with Ferrari and Maserati.

"One franchise might go and others might come in. We are always looking for expansion as a group. We never stop talking to other manufacturers and we’ll continue to do that as long as we’re in the car business."Mr Crichton said general and marketing managers would soon be appointed for each brand.

Fiat Punto here within 10 months

ATECO Automotive boss Neville Crichton has confirmed sales of Fiat passenger cars will finally commence Down Under in early 2006.

Ateco, which holds the Australian and New Zealand distribution rights for Fiat, has since 2003 stated the expensive budget required to relaunch the Fiat passenger car brand locally would make imports unviable until the Australian dollar was worth at least 65 Euro cents.

But now Mr Crichton said Ateco "can live" with the conversion rate, which currently stands at around 60 Euro cents to the Aussie dollar.

"It’s 99 per cent certain we will launch Fiat early next year – but only with the new Punto initially," he told GoAuto.

"As they launch new products it’s our intention to launch the cars – we don’t want to launch any of the older Fiat product. They’ve got a new generation and as they roll it out we’ll launch them here. The new Punto’s a ball-tearer."It is believed the new Punto small car will be launched in left-hand drive European markets in November and the first right-hand drive market (Ireland) will take delivery in January.

"I think we can get January production so hopefully we can get it here before the (Melbourne) show (in March)," Mr Crichton said.

While Ateco has imported Fiat’s Ducato commercial van here successfully since 2002, the return of Fiat passenger cars would mark the car brand’s return to Australia after a hiatus of more than 10 years.

In line with its intention to offer Fiat models that will not cannibalise its own Alfa Romeo models, Ateco hopes to complement next year’s Punto – which is due to appear at the Frankfurt motor show in September - with Fiat’s new Croma wagon.

The first Fiat to be developed from GM’s Signum platform, which has been codenamed Fiat Large, Croma may be available here with 112kW 2.2-litre petrol and 160kW 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engines.

However, it’s not slated for right-hand drive production until mid-2006.

Just as automatic-transmission Croma will be large enough to compete with Australia’s most popular homegrown wagons, Punto will rival mini hatches like Barina and Fiesta here.

Abarth-badged performance versions of the current Stilo small car are also under consideration for Australia.

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