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Ateco looks to expand brand offerings

Risky business: Ateco Automotive Group managing director Roger Zagorski says having brands from China, the US and Europe helps minimise risks relating to currency.

Importer Ateco is happy with portfolio but actively talking with other brands

14 Jun 2018

ATECO Automotive Group managing director Roger Zagorski says the importer is actively looking to expand the number of brands in its stable, but it is pleased with its current diverse mix of manufacturers.
The company has whittled its brand portfolio down to just three car-makers – SAIC-owned commercial vehicle specialist LDV, Maserati and re-engineered right-hand-drive Ram Trucks through its American Special Vehicles (ASV) division.
Ateco has previously had distribution agreements with Chinese brands Foton, Chery and Great Wall, as well as SsangYong, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Lotus, Peugeot and Citroen.
Mr Zagorski told GoAuto that the company was satisfied with the spread of brands as it helps minimise potential risks and highlighted the growth of Chinese car-makers in Australia in recent years.
“We are always looking,” he said at the Ram 1500 launch in Sydney this week. “The diversity, we think it is a good risk spread, both geographically- and currency-wise as well. It is a nice strategy. It didn’t really start as a strategy, but it ended up that way. We are very happy with the mix.
“We have cars that come from Europe, the US and China. China is a big part of our business right now and I think it is a growing part of the Australian environment, in terms of the vehicles coming in. The future for Chinese brands in Australia is pretty strong.”
Mr Zagorski would not comment on the brands that Ateco was courting but said there were no imminent announcements.
“We have got discussions with any number, but all in sort of early stage indications, meet and greets and so on,” he said. “We’ve got nothing concrete that we can really talk about. But … these things happen very quickly. So what starts off as a meet and greet turns into a business case pretty quickly. But we have got nothing at the moment.”
One Chinese brand that Ateco is unlikely to resurrect in the short term is Chery, with Mr Zagorski suggesting that the Chinese giant was still working out its right-hand-drive market strategy.
“Chery has got some financial problems that we read about,” he said. “We did hear that there is a right-hand-drive product platform that they are developing. Although we have reached out, we couldn’t get much detail on what it is. There were some announcements made … maybe three or four months ago around the UK maybe having some interest in a right-hand-drive Chery platform. 
“We reached out but we couldn’t get any traction. One model doesn’t make a brand either. We still have an ongoing relationship with Chery – we still distribute the parts to the network to support the owners – but we don’t have any immediate plans to revive that brand at the moment.”
Ateco has first of refusal to resume selling Chery models in Australia and New Zealand after sales ground to a halt in 2016.
Ateco launched Chery in Australia in early 2011 with the tiny J1 hatchback and J11 SUV, ahead of the Corolla-sized J3 hatch, and sales peaked in 2011 with 1822 units shifted, before sliding to 592 in 2014 and just 19 in 2016.
Mr Zagorski said Ateco recently renewed its local distribution agreement with the premium brand in its stable, Maserati, and said he was confident that its parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) would be happy with the brands growth Down Under.
“The Maserati relationship is quite strong,” he said. “We have distribution agreements active not only for Australia and New Zealand but South Africa as well. Interestingly that relationship is run out of two different regions in the Maserati structure, so that is a test of the strength of the relations as it spans different regions. But we have done a good job of it so I think they are pretty happy.”
Ateco also has the New Zealand rights to FCA brands Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep and Alfa Romeo as well as Maserati.

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