New Alfa Romeo CEO Karl-Heinz Kalbfell isn’t happy with the management structure he inherited.
“In the past, Alfa had salespeople who never worked in a sales department before,” Kalbfell said during an interview at the Geneva auto show.
These people have either left the carmaker or have been reassigned.
Expect more of the same as Kalbfell has promised a quick and radical overhaul of the struggling carmaker.
“I grew up in a bottom-up organization,” said Kalbfell, “and here I a found top-down organization that I do not want to live with.”
The former BMW and Rolls-Royce executive joined Alfa on January 1. He added the title CEO of Maserati February 21 after Fiat group decided to link Maserati with Alfa Romeo.
Kalbfell replaced Martin Leach, who sources say opposed the decision to group the sporty brands.
Leach, a former Ford Europe executive who was once in line to be Fiat Auto CEO, left the company last month less than nine months after he arrived.
Maserati, which used to be grouped with Ferrari, will work more closely with Alfa Romeo but still keep technological and commercial ties with Ferrari.
Kalbfell said he is happy with Maserati’s management team.
Fiat group and Fiat Auto CEO Sergio Marchionne wants Kalbfell to turn around Alfa and Maserati. At the same time Kalbfell must forge a successful industrial and commercial cooperation between the two brands.
Both carmakers’ previous bids to create synergies with partners failed.
Maserati signed a technical, commercial and financial services agreement with Audi in September 2003, but the relationship went nowhere so the two sides silently killed the deal last autumn.
After Fiat Auto and General Motors formed their alliance in 2000, Alfa Romeo and Saab created the Premium platform, a new, common architecture. But Saab decided to withdraw from the project.
Now the Premium platform is the foundation of the technical cooperation between Alfa and Maserati. Alfa debuted two cars built on the Premium platform at this month’s Geneva auto show – the 159 sedan and Brera coupe. Alfa will use the platform for three more vehicles in the next two years: the 159 Sportwagon, the Brera spider and the Kamal crossover.
Maserati will derive an entry-level spider and a large station wagon/SUV crossover from the platform. The crossover will be the production version of the Kubang concept.
Last year, Maserati increased sales 65 percent to 4,765 units and revenues 68 percent to E409 million, but still suffered an operating loss of about E100 million.
Fiat Auto, which includes Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, does not disclose financial results of its various brands, but insiders say Alfa had an operating loss of about E200 million last year. The brand’s global unit sales were down 3.2 percent to 170,600 units.
Kalbfell said Alfa Romeo aims to sell 300,000 units a year but he didn’t give a timeframe. He also declined to give a sale target for Maserati.
But Maserati’s long-term goal was 10,000 units a year when it was a junior brand to Ferrari. That production number could triple, a supplier source told Automotive News Europe.
“Cooperating with Alfa Romeo to create an entry spider and a medium-sized crossover, Maserati is now set for 30,000 units a year,” the source said.
More comfortable talking about Alfa, Kalbfell said the carmaker needs a medium-premium sedan to replace the slow selling 166. Alfa aimed to sell 20,000 166s in western Europe last year. The final result was 7,403 units, a number Kalbfell called “intolerable.”