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.”