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Alfa Romeo seeks to quadruple UK volume

Date: 05 March 2007

Alfa Romeo is eyeing Britain as a key growth market as it seeks to quadruple volume here in the next four years as part of a worldwide plan to almost double volumes.

In the next four years, a raft of new models are set to be launched, including two that will take Alfa Romeo into crucial new segments. An Alfa supermini, currently known as Junior, is the most important of these, and would do battle with Mini as the only real premium brand currently operating in the segment, while a small off-roader based on the Kamal concept (pictured above) of a couple of years ago is also on the way. That's added to replacements for the lower medium 147 and the executive 169 models.

But the volume push won't just be fuelled by new models, and the current management regime, which has now been in place for around 18 months, has been working hard behind the scenes to make changes, such as improving residual values. "RVs are not just about the car's quality, they're about manufacturer behaviour and in 2006 we turned the tap off," said Alfa UK boss Christopher Nicoll, referring to the low-profit business the company had previously dabbled in. Alfa marketing boss Nicholas Bernard backed up the point: "Last year we sold our cars very carefully, to the point that dealers complained that there were not enough nearly new cars. The few we do to rental go back into the network."

Bernard told BusinessCar that the fruits of the company's labour are already being seen. "The RV guys are seeing what we're doing and becoming more willing to put their own [company's] money in," he said.

Bernard is also trying to improve Alfa's dialogue with the market. "We're finding people have said they haven't seen an Alfa guy in years," he said. "We're not out cutting deals, but we're out saying that we're back."

Nicoll knows Alfa dealers don't have the best reputation, but is working to change this. "We have the worst network, but in six months' time I guarantee you this won't be true," he said. The brand started 2006 with 70 dealers, and parted company with half of them during the year on the way to building a better quality coverage of 50 nationwide.

Nicoll also pointed to the additional quality control introduced at the UK pre-delivery inspection centre, and the warranty increase to unlimited miles over three years.