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Alfa's magic number

Coming: 159 Sportwagon (above) and new-generation Spider (below).

159 is the key for Alfa, with wagon, spider and coupe versions coming soon to Oz

9 Jun 2006

ALFA Romeo plans to reverse a steady decline of sales it has been experiencing in Australia since peaking at a total national figure of 2513 in 2002. Last year the Italian marque achieved only 1572 sales, mainly as a result of stagnancy in one of its core models, the now seven-year-old 156.

Its replacement, the new 159 model launched last week, comes just in time for Alfa Romeo as the 156 begins to feel its age and the smaller 147 slides from its 2002 peak when it accounted for almost half (1194) of Alfa sales in Australia.

Alfa Romeo Australia general manager David Stone said the 159 would play a major role in seeing Alfa surge again past 2000 annual sales to an expected 2100 by the end of 2006.

In 2007, the target is close to 2800 sales, about where Mr Stone sees the company as a comfortable prestige player.

Based on an all-new platform that will be shared with the forthcoming Brera coupe, Spider convertible and 159 Sportwagon, the 159 sedan is expected to account for 50 to 60 per cent of total Alfa sales volume in Australia.

26 center imageThe arrival of the much-admired Brera – in 2.2-litre form this month, followed by the all-wheel drive V6 version in July and to be sold alongside the more commodious GT coupe – and Spider convertible (in December) will create a halo effect benefiting all models in the Alfa Romeo range, including the 147 whichhas taken a back seat during the 156 run-out program and the arrival of the 159.

The 2100 sales for 2006 are expected to comprise 400 159s, with combined Brera/Spider sales of 175. The wagon is expected to account for just 50 sales, climbing to 250 in 2007, where the 159 is targeted at 1500 sales and the Brera/Spider at 400.

The 147, which is due for some attention because its replacement is notscheduled to arrive until 2008, will make up the remainder.

"We are planning more 147 activity down the track," said Mr Stone.

The 159 itself, which was introduced with only two of the three engines it will ultimately be available with, will start running at full strength when the four-wheel drive V6 model arrives next month – although the six-speed automatic versions are not due until early 2007.

Alfa Romeo believes automatics will account for about 50 percent of 159 sales.

The less popular Selespeed option will also make its way into the 2.2-litre JTS 159 in the first quarter of 2007, though it is expected its acceptance will be somewhat less than Europe where it accounts for 75 per cent of sales.

In Australia, Selespeed will be fitted to about 25 per cent of 159s sold.

The 159, and all other Alfas suitably prepared, will be available with a satellite navigation option towards the end of 2006.

Another 159 variant on the way is the 1.9 JTD version, which so far is only available, in this part of the world, in New Zealand. It will come to Australia in automatic form only.

Alfa hopes are riding high on the 2.4-litre five-cylinder JTD turbo-diesel, which will initially represent about 30 per cent of the 159 model mix, growing to 40 per cent in 2007.

Mr Stone said the company was keen to promote the performance of the JTD and will be following a similar approach to BMW with its 5 and 1 Series diesel models by promoting it as a "sports" diesel.

What's coming from Alfa Romeo:

Brera 2.2 coupe - June
Brera V6 coupe - July
159 V6 sedan - July
159 Sportwagon - August
Spider convertible - December

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