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Alfa Romeo to downsize

Alfa Romeo UK is to downsize its dealer network to ensure the remaining retailers are focused on delivering better service and facilities.

Managing director Christopher Nicoll has been given the go-ahead by global CEO, Antonio Baravalle, to cut the number of sales points to 50 sites within the next 12 months. The network currently stands at 60 outlets, but was 70-strong when Nicoll stepped in at the beginning of the year.

Nicoll says the next changes will affect more than 10 dealers, as some new partners will replace existing ones who do not want to invest in the brand. He is looking for retailers who share the vision of Alfa Romeo as a premium franchise. Owner-drivers, small groups and large groups will all be considered if the business case is right.

In addition to the 50 full dealerships, 30 Alfa Romeo will retain its network of 30 approved service centres – Nicoll requires 80 service points for nationwide coverage.

“Previously our commercial network was more volume driven than prestige driven. There were relatively high discounts and a lot of dissatisfaction with the brand. This has to change.

“The focus has to be on the brand. We can’t continue to play the volume game and the discounting game,” he says.

Dealers who continue with Alfa Romeo will be expected to deliver higher standards of operations, customer service and facilities. Nicoll wants these rolling out prior to the launch of the open-top Alfa Spider next January. In return, he promises higher margin retention.

He adds: “Standards weren’t the focus of Alfa Romeo’s business up to now but they must become the focus because the customer demands service of a certain level, a premium level.”

A slicker sales process will ensure test drives are always offered, and cars will be delivered more quickly. In aftersales, parts delivery and courtesy car availability will improve, and a central customer contact centre will be launched this autumn.

JD Power, which has worked with Alfa Romeo on its network assessment, will check progress. Nicoll is encouraging dealers to invest in the future of Alfa Romeo. Changes to CI for showrooms that are suitable for refurbishing will cost between £40,000 and £60,000 on average.

However some dealers will be required to open new premises. The standards will be first applied to major city sites, before being rolled out nationally.

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