Alfa dealers urged to offer luxury services

The midengine Alfa Romeo 4C starts at $55,195, including shipping.
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DETROIT -- Chrysler Group expects Alfa Romeo dealers to provide luxury services -- such as home pickup and delivery for repairs -- despite having only a handful of cars to sell for the next two years.

Only about 1,500 of the 4C two-seater -- the first new Alfa Romeo on sale in the United States since 1995 -- are to be sold annually in the United States and Canada.

The first batch of 87 Alfa Romeo dealerships will receive 4Cs this month, the company said. The midengine car starts at $55,195, including shipping. The company promises a full lineup of vehicles to arrive starting in 2016.

Chrysler executives say they expect Alfa Romeo dealers to offer customers luxury services, such as home pickup and delivery of vehicles for service and technician-led performance briefings.

"We're encouraging dealers to step it up a bit. I think they've got to be closer to what this luxury intender [customer] may require," said Peter Grady, Chrysler's head of dealer network development.

Grady said an Alfa Romeo shopper "is more like a Viper customer than it is anything else we've ever seen."

He said that when a 4C is delivered, for example, service technicians will "put the car on the lift, show the customer underneath the car what they can expect" from the suspension and for performance.

Chrysler plans to award a second batch of Alfa Romeo franchises in the United States and Canada by early November. A third batch will be awarded in the first quarter of 2015, Grady said.

The network will expand to about 300 dealerships in the two countries and will consist mainly of existing Fiat and Maserati dealerships, Grady said. The first Alfa Romeo dealers were chosen because their Fiat or Maserati dealerships had high customer-satisfaction scores, he said.

Grady: High expectations

The first Alfa Romeo dealers "are our best and brightest," Grady said. "They've performed exceedingly well and their facilities are in great shape. The rest of the network is trying to catch up to their performance."

Many of the first Alfa Romeo dealers told Automotive News this year that they had accepted multiple deposits from 4C customers.

Lisa Copeland, general manager of Fiat of Austin in Texas, said newly minted Alfa Romeo dealerships such as hers are prepared to provide concierge-type service. She has assigned one staffer to handle Alfa Romeo customers.

Copeland said many 4C shoppers already own luxury vehicles. She said two of her first customers own Ferraris.

"What [Chrysler is] asking us to do is a small commitment compared to the big commitment to Alfa that we've already made," she said.

Grady said he anticipates high demand for the 4C, as in Europe, adding: "We'll ensure that the dealers are working with the customers on communications and not setting false expectations."

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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