Nobody shapes sheet metal like the Italians. Craftsman from Italy have mastered the art of emotional design like no other.
Ferrari and Maserati generally land new designs on the green. Of course, there’s the occasional misfire, but those instances are few and far between.
The new Ferrari Roma is a stunner and there’s plenty of fans that’ll argue it’s the new highpoint of Ferrari design. It’s the culmination of all the brand’s greatest hits.
Same thing over at Maserati. Despite being 12 years old, the Gran Turismo is still beautiful to look at. Considering something more recent, the Ghibli isn't worth the money. It’s a dreadful proposition when compared to rivals from Germany, but just look at it. The intoxicating curves command attention in a way rivals can’t match.
Now those two marques are out of the realms of possibility for the majority of us, however, some Italian curves are attainable which brings us to Alfa Romeo.
The often forgotten Italian brand has been floundering in the Australian market forever. In this part of the world, it’s never found its niche. Things aren’t much better in Europe where it's under pressure from all angles, both premium and mainstream offerings have put the 110-year-old Alfa in no man’s land.
For a brand with so much history to share, capturing the imagination of buyers has been difficult. As part of the FCA stable, Alfa’s new models have failed to fire.
As of the end of September, Alfa is averaging 61 registrations a month, down from an average of 72 a month over the same period last year. For context, BMW sold 241 sales of its 3 Series range last month.
The new Giulia and Stelvio are great looking cars that incorporate the emotional design cues that should have the punters lining up but the market response has been underwhelming. These were the models that were tasked with reviving the brand. Resurrection is now looking too far gone, so maybe throwing some caution to the wind is now the attitude to adopt?
Locally, Alfa Romeo is managed by the same office that’s responsible for Jeep and Fiat. Bundling the FCA brands together reduces operating costs so from a certain perspective it’s a sensible thing to do, however, it also ensures each brand is never the sole focus. Given Alfa’s current performance in Oz, it needs a team dedicated to building it up if its to gain any traction in the local market.
For context, let’s look at Lexus. It would be easy to lump it in with Toyota where it would play second fiddle and struggle for oxygen. In Australia, Lexus has its own management team and dealer network, there’s a clear separation that means a team of people focus only on making Lexus a success. The suits responsible for Alfa would do well to take note.
Along with a dedicated team, Alfa needs to re-evaluate its market positioning. At present, it’s ‘trying’ to compete with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. It’s been doing this unsuccessfully for a while. Alfa Romeo doesn’t command the same badge cachet as the big three Germans so it’s foolish to pretend it does.
In order to carve out a space in a crowded market, Alfa Romeo needs to come down a rung or two on price. Realistically, price positioning somewhere slightly above Mazda is where the brand needs to be if it wants an audience.
Effectively, Alfa needs to start building a following from scratch. The sobering reality for Alfa Romeo is the vast majority of younger, brand-conscious buyers have never heard of it. The long history has been undermined by mismanagement compounded by a small dealer footprint.
The other issue the brand needs to address is reliability. For those of us over 40, the most significant impediment to Alfa ownership is its reputation for poor long-term reliability. A decent warranty would go a long way to alleviating this concern. At present, Alfa offers a paltry three-year/150,000km. Mercedes gives you five years coverage.
In the current market, buying an Alfa is too much of a risk, however, with a bit of nouse the brand can be successful. Alternatively, the brand can continue as is, a trajectory that’s sure to result in the marque’s exit from Australia.
If Alfa addresses these issues, there’s a place for it in the Australian new car landscape. The Giulia and Stelvio are good cars worthy of a wider gamut of buyers. Alfa can be the brand that offers desirable Italian style and heritage at a reasonable price.