Alfa Romeo Comes To China, But Will It Sell?

Tycho de Feyter
by Tycho de Feyter
alfa romeo comes to china but will it sell

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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  • Advo Advo on Nov 24, 2011

    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.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Nov 24, 2011

    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.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂