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Chrysler Australia to expand Fiat and Alfa footprint
New Fiat and Alfa distributor Chrysler officially takes the reins, looks to growth
1 May 2012
CHRYSLER Group Australia will look to expand the dealer network of the Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Fiat Commercials brands as it settles into its new role as official distributor, starting from today.
There are currently 17 sales centres Down Under for Alfa Romeo – most of which also sell the Fiat passenger line-up that for now comprises solely of the 500 city car – and 18 selling Fiat commercials.
Chrysler Australia director of corporate affairs Lenore Fletcher told GoAuto that there had been “a lot of interest” in both brands from potential new dealers.
“We have access to quite a wide number of dealers underneath the Chrysler/Jeep brand as well, so our contacts in the dealer world are quite extensive”, she said.
“I would say that it is highly likely that there will be additional Fiat/Alfa dealers going forward.” The company has confirmed that all existing dealer agreements will remain in place for at least the next nine months, at which point they will be free to decide whether to stay on under the new distributorship.
Chrysler recently held an inaugural dealer lunch in Melbourne, where it introduced all Fiat and Alfa dealers to the new management, headed by Chrysler Group Australia managing director Clyde Campbell.
Ms Fletcher said it was “very positive in terms of the way that the dealers were reacting to us I guess it was a little bit of a mutual admiration”.
Chrysler takes over the helm as distributor from Ateco Automotive, who re-introduced Alfa Romeo to the Australian market in 1997 – five years after the Fiat Group removed it – with the launch of the Spider and GTV coupe.
Fiat re-emerged under Ateco’s distributorship in 2001 with the Ducato commercial range, with the passenger range arriving in 2006 with the Punto hatch.
Ms Fletcher said Chrysler was “extremely grateful for the job that Ateco have done with establishing the brands in the Australian market, and how they looked after them over the past few years”.
From top: Fiat Freemont, Fiat 500 TwinAir and Alfa Romeo 4C.
However, she said Chrysler would do things a little differently by leveraging its factory links with Fiat and Alfa Romeo to get better vehicle supply, and would seek to broaden the current portfolios.
“From our management team’s point of view, if there’s the possibility of having a steering wheel on the right-hand side of the vehicle, we will be looking at it,” said Ms Fletcher.
“There will be no shrinking violets when it comes to looking at potential product for the Australian market, that’s for sure.” Possible new additions to the line-up include the Fiat Viaggio small car shown at last week’s Beijing motor show, as well as the Freemont MPV – essentially a re-badged Dodge Journey.
As we reported last week, the Dodge brand looks set to be dropped from the Australian market as part of a wider global strategy, and Fiat is likely to take up the vacancy with its take on the popular Journey, which accounted for 1016 sales last year.
Ms Fletcher confirmed that Chrysler had taken on certain “brand specific” people from Ateco, including five Alfa Romeo staff involved in parts and accessories.
Ateco public affairs manager Edward Rowe told GoAuto that most other Ateco staff in areas like distribution, warranty, finance and IT will remain with the company, which represents brands including Citroen, Lotus, Great Wall and Chery.
Mr Rowe said Ateco’s main legacy as distributor for Fiat passenger, Fiat Commercials and Alfa Romeo was to establish each as “viable and profitable” businesses.
“I think the other thing that we’ve transformed is the reputation of those brands in Australia they now have a strong reputation and we’ve sold back a strong viable business (to Chrysler),” he said.
Ateco – which has previously been the agent for Volkswagen, Audi, Suzuki and Kia – is understood to be looking to add new brands to its portfolio, but Mr Rowe said its policy is “not to talk about individual companies or brands until we’ve completed the negotiations”.
However, he said the group’s long-term target is “to have representation in all of the major market sectors of Australia with our brands”.
“Chery and Great Wall will cover increasing numbers of areas in the market, but there are still market sectors that we are looking at, particularly commercial vehicles,” he said.
One possible candidate is iconic British marque MG, now owned by Chinese company Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), which as we reported last week is understood to be the target of at least two independent importers.
At last week’s Beijing motor show, MG unveiled the radical Icon small SUV concept, which took inspiration from classic MG sportscars as well as chic modern SUVs like the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque.
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