Alfa Romeo debuted as a brand on the Guangzhou Auto Show and they brought… only two cars, and a concept car. Those were the MiTo, the Giulietta and the 4C. Sales are said to begin sometime in 2012. Fiat doesn’t have a working joint venture in China, production at the new Guangzhou-Fiat JV is still at least two years away, so all Alfa’s will be imported and therefore expensive. Will the Chinese buy them?
Chinese car buyers are very much willing to pay a premium for an imported car, but only if it is a premium car. Is Alfa premium enough to get the extra money out of Chinese pockets? I think not. The Alfa Romeo brand might be famous in Europe, but it is not in China. Fiat so has to start from zero to built the Alfa-brand in China. That takes time, a lot of time.
The MiTo then. Not a chance. The only brands that can ask a premium for a small imported car are Mini, Volkswagen (Beetle) and Audi (A1). Volkswagen and Audi are strong and long established names in China and Mini is distributed through BMW’s dealer-network. Even with that strong backing, the small imports are not necessarily flying off the shelves.
The Giulietta. Slightly bigger chance because it is a beautiful car. But it is even less premium than the MiTo, same problem with the unknown brand and there is no sedan, which you need in China, especially in the Giulietta’s segment.
4C. Well, yes. Chinese car buyers love everything fast and expensive. Too bad the 4C does not yet exist, and knowing the way Fiat develops cars it won’t hit the market before at least two years are over.
Then there is the small problem of a dealer network. Fiat doesn’t really have one. They will likely use the Guangzhou Auto network for the time being. And that indeed, ain’t exactly premium either.
Conclusion: forget it, stay in Italy until the joint venture is humming, and locally made Fiats proliferate. To end this story and to prove my point:
Yez you saw that right, those bad Chinese journalists are already comparing the MiTo to a pinkish bunnyrabbit. But can it wiggle its nose? Not an auspicious start…
Dutchman Tycho de Feyter runs Carnewschina, a blog about cars in China, from Beijing, China. He also collects die-cast models of Chinese cars.