Word on the street has it that Alfa Romeo distributor Fiat Chrysler New Zealand (FCNZ) has switched its Auckland dealer, from Andrew Simms to Winger Maserati. Officially, no one is talking.
Simms himself, whose inner-city Newmarket and suburban Botany dealerships picked up the 2016 Fiat Alfa Romeo dealer of the year award from FCNZ, is reported to be “disappointed” at the loss of the Italian badge.
Emails from Automotive News to FCNZ boss David Smitherman, querying the switch, have gone unanswered. Winger Maserati was set up last year as Auckland’s only Maserati outlet.
FCNZ reportedly told Simms weeks ago that he would lose Alfa Romeo. The 108-year-old Italian brand is stoking up the marketing fires with its new Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV, and FCNZ wanted both models to be in a dedicated Italian-product showroom.
Simms Newmarket is a long-time Mitsubishi dealer. It also sells FCNZ nameplates Fiat and American brands Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep.
Putting Alfa Romeo alongside Maserati is a key part of FCNZ strategy to rebuild Alfa Romeo and distinguish it from the established Germans – Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW.
It’s a local extension of Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) boss Sergio Marchionne’s global move to reinvent Alfa Romeo, to showcase its traditional sporty side, and end its reputation for unreliability. The brand has just returned to the vital US market, after an absence of 20-odd years.
FCNZ is a wholly owned subsidiary of expat New Zealand businessman Neville Crichton’s Ateco Group. Another Ateco Group offshoot, European Automotive Imports, is the distributor for Maserati in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.
Alfa Romeo might have changed dealers in Auckland but it hasn’t gone far – Winger Maserati is just up the road from Simms in Newmarket.
Meantime, the rear-drive Giulia sedan has just gone on sale. Two models are available – the entry-level Veloce at $79,990 and the go-faster Quadrifoglio at $134,990.
The Veloce uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine delivering 206kW/400Nm to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and electronic limited-slip differential.
The Quadrifoglio has a bi-turbo 2.9-litre V6 generating 375kW/600Nm to the rear alloys via a handful of electronic suspension aids and the limited-slip diff. The car holds the lap record for a sedan around Germany’s Nurburgring circuit.
Alfa Romeo showed off its Stelio SUV at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England last weekend. The Stelio is pictured on this page and is likely to be available in New Zealand from next year.