By on November 23, 2011

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.

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6 Comments on “Alfa Romeo Comes To China, But Will It Sell?...”

  • avatar

    Although I shudder to type it, sell them to junior party members as “a poor man’s Ferrari.”

  • avatar

    I see the resemblance to the pinkish bunnyrabbit. That’s rough!

    With the Chinese market as crowded as it is, I don’t see Alfa having much of a chance.

  • avatar

    Yeah this is a bad idea, you can’t rush into China, you need to be smart or you will be out of the market in no time.

  • avatar

    Chinacartimes said that the Alfa presentation at the Guangzhou Auto Show was very impressive. Maybe they did the show right, but their choice of vehicles to enter this market is unfortunate. To establish a premium brand in China, you need larger vehicles first. Maybe the next Giulia and it’s companion CUV would be a good start. Chinese consumers are not really interested in the premium, sporty sub-compact thing. With so many first time affluent buyers, bigger is better.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if this is too off-topic, but I was searching to see if (pink) rabbits were fortuitous in Chinese culture and came across this:

    ” * The moon rabbit was mentioned in the conversation between Houston and the Apollo 11 crew just before the first moon landing:[4]

    Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning there’s one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.

    Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (LMP): Okay, we’ll keep a close eye for the bunny girl. ”

    Suddenly, I can see the connection between auto show marketing women and Alfa Romeos.

  • avatar

    MiTO is poor mans Ferrari? How poor you have to be to fool youselve that Alfa Romeo is Ferrari. What about Dodge being poor man’s Ferrari, at least it has V8 and RWD. Next time FIAT will bring large RWD car – Dodge Charger with Alfa-Romeo badge slapped on its face. Alfa Romeo is another brand on the death watch, I am not so sure that it is popular even in Europe. FIAT cannot lose money on non essential brands forever and making Alfa Romeo from rebadged Dodges will not help.

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