Brand over­load

Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - Twit­ter @PaulWardGover

THERE are more than 300 in­di­vid­ual name­plates in Aus­tralia to­day. From Abarth to Volvo, the badges sit on ve­hi­cles from 46 brands build­ing elec­tric cars, tiny run­abouts, hulk­ing SUVs and utes.

The gold rush is not over by a long shot, with Chi­nese brands start­ing to get very se­ri­ous about Aus­tralia and cer­tain to push the num­ber nearer to 50 in 2016.

LDV has ar­rived via im­porter Ateco Au­to­mo­tive with a peo­ple-mover and de­liv­ery van. Haval is making big prom­ises for BMW-style SUVs next year. A brand with Bri­tish history but Chi­nese own­ers will have three new mod­els next year: the MG 3, MG 6 and MG CS.

Some brands have been in Aus­tralia, of­ten for a long time, and are look­ing for a fresh start.

Fiat is plan­ning a re­newed push, start­ing with the just-landed, fam­ily-fo­cused 500X. Next year, it will have the 124 Spi­der (pic­tured), which it has cloned from the new Mazda MX-5. Hav­ing failed in re­cent years with the Panda and Punto, Fiat be­lieves it can cre­ate some ex­cite­ment with a new gen­er­a­tion of cars.

“The last thing the Aus­tralian mar­ket needs is an­other name­plate or brand. I can­not turn up and pre­tend you need me,” says Fiat chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Olivier Fran­cois.

He is be­hind some cre­ative work for Fiat Chrysler that fea­tures su­per­stars in­clud­ing Phar­rell Wil­liams, J-Lo, Eminem and even Clint East­wood, who starred in a Su­perbowl com­mer­cial.

For Aus­tralia, he is bank­ing on Fiat’s Ital­ian her­itage and de­sign, com­bined with bet­ter pric­ing and qual­ity from Fiat Chrysler — an op­er­a­tion that is start­ing to get trac­tion here.

He is push­ing — like the Chi­nese brands — a change in per­cep­tion and says: “Think Fiat only builds small cars? Wrong.”

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