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Chrysler Oz assumes control of Fiat, Alfa

Bold future: The Alfa Romeo 4C might help fire Italian cars in Australia under new distribution rights.

Fiat, Alfa find new home with Chrysler which pledges to re-energise Italian brand

29 Mar 2012

THE factory-owned Chrysler Australia will take control of Fiat and Alfa Romeo distribution in Australia and New Zealand from May 1, assuming the reins from independent importer Ateco Group.

The widely expected shift of the famous Italian brands to the factory subsidiary was confirmed today after the paperwork was signed in the United States overnight.

Fiat SpA’s top-end end sportscar brands, Ferrari and Maserati, will remain with Ateco’s European Automotive Imports division.

The change – which includes Fiat commercial vehicles and the Abarth brand – means that the sales, marketing and technical support operations for both Alfa and Fiat will be shifted from Ateco’s head office in Sydney to Chrysler Australia in Melbourne, where the latter is preparing to move into new offices in Port Melbourne.

The shift to factory distribution is in line with moves by Italy’s biggest car-maker, Fiat SpA, to integrate its operations with America’s Chrysler Group, which it rescued from bankruptcy with a corporate buy-out during the global financial crisis.

Many of the details of the shift are still being worked out, including details of which jobs will move to Chrysler Australia, which already imports Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles.

Apart from Ferrari and Maserati, Ateco retains the Citroen, Great Wall, Chery and Lotus distribution rights for Australia, and is believed to be on the look out for more Chinese brands to add to its portfolio.

Ateco’s Neville Crichton restored the Alfa and Fiat brands to Australia in 1997 and 2001 respectively, after a chequered history in this country. Ateco also took control of Alfa and Fiat in New Zealand in 2000.

 center imageLeft: Managing director of Chrysler Australia Clyde Campbell. Below: Fiat 500 Abarth and Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Announcing the new arrangement, Mr Crichton said Alfa Romeo and Fiat had “a real, live passion for life” that Ateco had been fully involved in.

“But while this makes it all the more hard to say goodbye to these iconic brands, we know that it is that passion that has driven us over the past 15 years and which has made them successful once again in Australia,” he said.

“We know that they now are prepared and positioned for a strong future in Australia and New Zealand, something of which I and everyone who has worked on them at Ateco can justifiably be very proud.” Chrysler Australia managing director Clyde Campbell pledged to “re-energise” the Italian brands in Australia under Chrysler group management.

“We plan to tap into the inherent talent and expertise of our staff to take the Fiat and Alfa brands to the next level,” he said.

“We aim to apply the same enthusiasm that has driven such a leap forward in terms of our current Chrysler Australia sales.

“I have no doubt we will see a reawakening in the levels of sales awareness and interest for the Fiat and Alfa brands under our management.” Although Fiat is one of Europe’s larger car companies, it has always struggled in Australia, with importers such as LNC trying and giving up over the years.

Currently, Fiat dealers have just one passenger car on their model lists – the diminutive Fiat 500 – while Fiat commercial vehicles dealers have just two nameplates, the Scudo and Ducato.

All up, Fiat and Alfa managed just 2635 vehicles between them in 2011, with Alfa scoring 1091 sales (up 19.4 per cent) and Fiat delivering 1544 vehicles (up 13.3 per cent).

Chrysler Australia found homes for 11,929 vehicles last year, with sales dominated by its rugged Jeep SUVs with 8648 sales, up a whopping 44.2 per cent.

By contrast, Chrysler-branded cars achieved just 580 sales and Dodge sold 2701 units.

As GoAuto reported yesterday, Chrysler Australia has its eyes on next month’s Beijing motor show where the Fiat-Chrysler alliance’s push into the Asia-Pacific region will be outlined by CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne.

This push, including both China and Australia, will address the alliance’s biggest regional weakness and help to take the global fight up to major competitors General Motors, Toyota and Renault-Nissan, all of which have a firm foothold in the world’s biggest car market, China.

Fiat is expected to launch a new Chinese-built model, the Viaggo small car, at the Beijing push. A rebadged Dodge Dart, which itself is based on the Alfa Giulietta platform, the Viaggio might be exported to Europe to replace the Fiat Bravo hatchback, according to Automotive News.

If it is made in right-hand drive for the UK, this might mean it could also be destined for Australia where CGA is facing the prospect of missing out on the new Dodge Dart due to lack of right-hand drive variants.

Mr Marchionne foreshadowed a shake up of the Australian Fiat-Alfa import arrangements at the Detroit motor show in January, saying a restructure could be expected in 60 to 90 days.

From May 1, all 17 Fiat and Alfa passenger car outlets, along with 22 Fiat commercial vehicle retail sites, will report to Chrysler Australia.

Alfa and Fiat join other brands handled by Ateco that, after finding a footing in this country, have moved into factory distribution. These include Volkswagen, Suzuki and Kia.

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