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Auto chiefs team up in Fiat Chrysler NZ

It’s a deal: Clyde Campbell (left) and Neville Crichton will share the ownership of a new company to handle Fiat Chrysler distribution in New Zealand.

Neville Crichton and Clyde Campbell launch Fiat Chrysler NZ as private company

Fiat logo21 Feb 2013

TWO major figures in the Australasian automotive industry have joined forces to handle the New Zealand distribution of Fiat Chrysler Group products, including Alfa Romeo, Dodge and Jeep.

Ateco Automotive executive chairman Neville Crichton and Fiat Chrysler Group Australia president and CEO Clyde Campbell have both personally taken a 50 per cent share in an all-new Auckland-based company, Fiat Chrysler NZ Limited, that will take over distribution of the Italian and American brands on May 1.

Neither Ateco nor Fiat Chrysler Group has any equity in the new entity that will assume NZ market responsibility for Fiat and Alfa Romeo rights from Ateco Automotive NZ and Chrysler Group rights from independent importer Sime Darby.

In return, Sime Darby will take Citroen distribution rights for NZ from Ateco NZ, adding the French brand to its existing Peugeot franchise on both sides of the Tasman.

All these brands have been in limbo in NZ since last year when the factory owned Chrysler Group Australia took over Australian distribution of Fiat and Alfa Romeo from Ateco Australia, and Sime Darby took on Citroen in Australia from Ateco in a swap for SsangYong.

Fiat Chrysler Group NZ public relations manager Edward Rowe said New Zealand-born Mr Crichton would bring a wealth of experience with Fiat and Alfa Romeo and the NZ automotive market to the new operation, while Mr Campbell would bring the same from the Chrysler Group.

He said staffing arrangements were still to be sorted, but the head office would be in Auckland.

Mr Rowe stopped short of saying the new company would consider recruiting some staff from those who handled the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands at Sime Darby but added: “Neville knows there are some very good people at Sime Darby.”

Ateco NZ will be left with its two Chinese brands, Chery and Great Wall, which its Australian counterpart also distributes in Australia.

Mr Rowe said Ateco had no plans to extend its SsangYong operations from Australia to NZ, but was well underway to taking over Australian distribution of Chinese-made Foton Trucks this year.

As well as Chery and Great Wall in Australia, Ateco also handles Ferrari, Maserati and Lotus.

Mr Crichton – a one-time racing driver and car dealer – owns Ateco Automotive in both Australia and New Zealand, along with European Automotive Imports – the Australian distributor of Ferrari, Maserati and Lotus.

He also owns the Ferrari-Maserati Sydney dealership in Waterloo, and has another major sideline in property investment.

Mr Campbell, a trained lawyer and former sales general manager for Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific, was recruited by Chrysler in 2010 to replace its previous Australian managing director Jerry Jenkins who was transferred to China.

Mr Campbell would have dealt extensively with Mr Crichton in negotiations for the transfer of Fiat and Alfa Romeo stewardship last year.

Ateco Automotive NZ will continue to be run by general manager Lawrie Malatios, with plans to greatly expand Chinese vehicle sales.

“Chery and Great Wall are selling more than we ever did with Fiat and Alfa together,” he said. “We predict 2000 Chinese vehicles in 2013, over double our 2012 tally.”

Sime Darby Automobiles has signed four new Citroen dealers to take the total to nine, with four sharing Peugeot franchises in separate showrooms but common service workshops and back-end operations.

It has announced it will cut the number of models it carries from 21 to between 12 or 15, and has realigned prices downwards by up to $7000.

Peugeot divisional manager Simon Rose becomes divisional manager for Citroen, with Todd Groves –formerly Chrusler, Jeep and Dodge divisional manager – has been appointed divisional manager for Peugeot.

Citroen vice president international operations Yves Moulin said Citroen has all but disappeared in New Zealand, adding that the situation which has been “our fault”.

“This is why we have decided to change,” he said. “Nothing can happen if we are not committed and invested enough.”

Sime Darby NZ is aiming for 1200 Peugeot sales and 400 for Citroen this year.

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