Fiat S.p.A. is bringing its luxury sports divisions under a single, new brand group which will be headed by German engineer, Harald J. Wester.
Wester will also continue his roles as CEO of Fiat’s Maserati and Abarth brands and CTO for Fiat Group and Fiat Group Automobiles in addition to his new duties.
The new brand group will include Fiat’s Maserati, Abarth and Alfa Romeo brands. Alfa Romeo’s current CEO, Sergio Cravero, is being reassigned as Fiat Group Automobiles’ head of product concept and product portfolio planning.
In a written statement, Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “The purpose of bringing the Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Abarth brands under the same leadership is to emphasize and leverage the value of the shared qualities of the three brands in terms of their sporting characteristics and performance.”
Marchionne also said that Wester has demonstrated his enormous commitment on several fronts and achieved optimum results, and express his confidence that Wester, will bring strong leadership capabilities and solid technical experience and know-how to this project.”
Wester, 51, joined Fiat in 2004 and has been instrumental in the automaker’s adoption of virtual engineering which has been credited with reducing the time-to-market for a number of vehicles.
In his new role, Wester is charged with identifying possible synergies between Fiat’s Maserati and money-losing Alfa Romeo brands. The automaker is currently conducting a strategic review of the Alfa brand which has lost between 200 million and 400 million Euros during each of the past 10 years.
Fiat is considering freezing its investment in the Alfa brand following the launch of the new Giulietta model at the Geneva Auto Show in March. The Giulietta will replace the current 147 model. The automaker plans to place its emphasis on the Giulietta and MiTo, which was launched in 2008, while continuing to sell its Brera Coupe, 166, Spider and GT Coupe models in the near-term.
Without the introduction of new models, most analysts predict a slow death for the already struggling Alfa brand.
Another option being considered would be to introduce new D-segment and E-segment sedans to replace Alfa’s current 159 and 166 models. Fiat is considering using Chrysler platforms for the new models which it says would be built in North America.
Fiat plans to unveil its 2010 to 2014 strategic plan for the new group in mid-April, once it has completed its review of the Alfa brand.
According to the Association of European Automakers (ACEA), European sales of Alfa Romeos increased by 8.1% in 2009 to 110,545 units. That number, however, was only about half the number of vehicles the automaker sold just a decade earlier, in 2000. On January 25, Fiat will release Alpha Romeo’s global sales numbers.
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