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Alfa dealers under fire

Alfa Romeo dealers have been told they must change their mindset, be prepared to fight for sales and invest in the brand as the manufacturer prepares for December’s launch of the 159.

Next year’s target is 5,000 UK sales of the 156 replacement and Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, chief operating officer, is making Britain his priority for change.

He summoned his dealers from around Europe to Munich to promise support for those who convince him they have determination to revive Alfa’s fortunes. Those who fail face termination.

Kalbfell spent more than 20 years with BMW until moving to head Alfa in January. He chose the German group’s home city to drive home the point that he sees 159 as a real 3-series challenger.

He recognizes that residual values and confidence in the brand are key issues, and a three-year, 75,000-mile maintenance package will be included in the price.

At the international press launch at the same venue the previous week, the former chief executive of BMW’s Rolls-Royce Motors was scathing about his mystery shopping experiences at several UK Alfa dealerships.

“It was a disaster. I stayed in one showroom for 25 minutes and was ignored,” Kalbfell says. “Sales staff did not even ask for my business card. I cannot understand this passiveness and will not allow dealers to continue with this mindset.

“BMW, Audi and Toyota take customers far more seriously. We must not miss our chance with the 159 and at the moment dealers’ focus seems to be on repair work and used cars. Some are selling 30 new cars a year when even 100 is not enough.

“Dealers have to understand they are in competition with other makes and be competent in financial services. BMW had to change in the Eighties and it kept only the best entrepreneurs as dealers. We have to do the same and I want retail partners who can convince me they are confident about Alfa Romeo.”

Kalbfell concedes the company has been too bureaucratic and systems need to be changed to support dealers. One plan is to appoint some dealers dedicated to Alfa-only fleet business.

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