- New premium products and premium customer service is the strategy
- Customer retention has to be drastically improved
- Better dealer training in place and more dealers required
Still a great name in motoring but no longer iconic for today’s UK customers is how Jeff Culkin, Marketing Director for Alfa Romeo UK sees their current position.
He said at the launch of the revised 147 range this week, "We see the general public today buying products with fashionable Italian labels, everything from clothing to kitchen furniture so we need to re-establish our Italian brand as being desirable and an icon in its field"
"The new Alfa 147 is the start of our three year recovery plan and the new Alfa159 premium D sector car due to go on sale in January 2006 will be the next stage of our product and customer service led recovery programme" he added.
The revised Alfa 147 range of three and five door C segment models is priced from £13,660 to £19,000. There are three petrol and two diesel engine options with Turismo and Lusso equipment levels.
Culkin said he expected to sell around 4,000 of these new models this year with Alfa’s overall UK sales being in the region of 9,500 units. "This will be a significant increase from our 8,072 sales last year especially when you consider this year’s overall UK new car market looks to be in decline".
"The 159 range with petrol and diesel engine options will be a core model for us and we expect to sell 10,000 units a year of this model alone by 2007. We will then grow its sales to 15,000 units a year which we need to do if we are to get to a one per cent share, around 25,000 units, of the UK market" said Culkin.
He revealed that the new Brera 2+s 2 sports coupe shown at the Geneva show earlier this month is to be built on the same Premium platform as the 159. This model, which will include a 200hp diesel engine option, and the following Brera Spyder two-seater sports convertible, will be significant additions in Alfa’s sales growth programme. The Brera models appear in the UK next year.
Culkin said, "We are moving the Alfa Romeo image from where it is today back to a premium brand with premium products and with our dealers trained to give a premium level of customer care. We cannot beat BMW or Audi for overall sales but we have to divert customers thinking of buying those products into our showrooms, we need to have Alfa models on their shopping lists".
Culkin revealed that is was also very important for them to improve their customer retention rate. Currently Alfa Romeo only retain 22 per cent of their customers and this is about half of where they need to be.
He said, "In the past product quality issues and us and our dealers getting things right has not done the brand a lot of favours. We now build better cars and we now have to deal with customer service issues. The new Fiat Academy has been launched and staff from our company and from all levels within our dealerships will be taking part in the new training programmes. We will also be marketing our models through advertising, PR and events using the lifestyle media as we re-establish the Alfa Romeo brand as being iconic, fashionable and desirable. We have a very famous trademark and we need to make people aware that this company has been around for nearly 100 years having produced its first Alfa car in 1910".
Growing the number of UK dealers from the current 75 up to 100 needs to happen by 2007. Culkin revealed that for their dealers do not cover them 27 per cent of the country. Major open points exist within the M25 and London itself, Liverpool, Oxford and Coventry.
Culkin added. "The significance of the recent transfer of the Maserati brand by the parent company Fiat in Italy to sit alongside Alfa Romeo has yet to be fully understood. It has more to do with the flotation on the stock market of Ferrari, which had been twinned with Maserati. In the UK we do not expect to see any effects of this twinning, there will be no overlap whatsoever. We could use this link to expand our dealer network if it makes sound business sense. There is strength in numbers and we need to expand the growth of both parties".Published 17 March 2005