The Italians are coming
ITALIAN cars are poised to make their biggest impact on the Australian market as Fiat and Alfa Romeo gear up with a dozen new models within three years.
Under the Fiat Group umbrella, Fiat and Alfa badges will be worn by a new wagon, small hatch, convertible, coupe and an SUV.
The push is the biggest made by the Italians since the 1970s and means parent company Fiat Chrysler Australia (FCA) must boost dealerships to 52 early next year from the current 16.
FCA managing director Clive Campbell says the Fiat and Alfa Romeo products could no longer be seen as niche models and had to sell in volume.
‘‘We can’t increase volume without increasing our dealer network,’’ he says.
He says more than 20 of those additional dealers who will sell Fiat and Alfa cars will be existing Chrysler Jeep dealers.
The volume will come from bringing in new models — initially variations of existing models — to give buyers different trim levels and new entry-level prices. There would be an expanded Fiat 500 range and different specifications of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
The range starts growing with new models from the second quarter of next year when the Fiat Freemont— a derivative of the Dodge Journey— arrives, followed by the possibility of the Fiat Punto hatchback.
Then there will be the Alfa Giulia, new Giulietta, refreshed Mito and 500, and the four-door 500 X and the all-wheel drive SUV 500.
More upmarket is the planned joint-venture convertible from Alfa and Mazda, based on the next MX-5. There is also the confirmed production of the Alfa 4C coupe.
‘‘Whatever is available in right-hand form in the UK, we’re looking at,’’ Mr Campbell says. ‘‘I don’t want models that will only sell 10 units a month — there will be 52 dealers to feed so we’re looking at high volumes.’’
Mr Campbell admits that the hardest sell will be the Mito— a car that hasn’t gelled with the Australian carbuying public.
‘‘We haven’t found its slot,’’ he says. ‘‘But we won’t drop it.’’
The Fiat 500 JTD Lounge . . . a dozen new models from Fiat and Alfa Romeo are expected in Australia within three years