Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari

How much can a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an ‘engineered by Ferrari’ badge? Or shouldn’t Alfa’s engineering speak for itself?

Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying "Autocar" inside the test car.
Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying “Autocar” inside the test car.

While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar  that Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn’t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.” This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi’s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well scribble “£10” on a £5 note. But is this such a terrible idea?

Let’s put on our white hats and consider that Porsche came to no serious harm by allowing Seat to place “Porsche Design” on the tops of their Ibiza engines. I seem to recall that Ssang Yong were permitted to associate their very excellent Musso with Mercedes due to the shared engines. While we are here, let’s take a moment to reflect on Ken Greenley’s contribution to Korean design which was much more than the superb Rodius as he penned the Musso too.

Designed by Ken Greenley.
Designed by Ken Greenley.

Getting back to the topic, I wonder how the “developed by Ferrari” sub-branding will go down with Ferrari owners. Is this something they can really do if Ferrari is not owned in full by FCA. On the face of it, Ferrari branding is a drag on Ferrari. How many Alfa-buyers will be impressed? And how many people will be alienated by the cynicism?

That’s an open question as I feel that these days Alfa is not doing well in attracting serious, informed or, shall we say, sufficiently, ABC1 customers. Maybe Alfa buyers won’t care. To be fair, lots of otherwise fine new cars become very attractive to less-desirable groups (seen from a marketing perspective, note) but Alfa seems especially to have the kind of blue-collar appeal that Pontiac managed to claim as its own in the US in the decades before it died.

Another brand mix-up.
Another brand mix-up.

FCA need to be very careful with this little move, if it is indeed more than a rumour. There is a danger of Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo getting blended in an uncontrolled marketing storm. Such decisions could be taken and managed if FCA was a stable corporation but the reality is that it seems like one where the revolving doors at marketing provide a lot of air-freshening. What is designed as a carefully evolving ten year plan may end up being managed to destruction as marketing chiefs come and go at 18 month intervals. Every plan needs the contingency for a change of plan built in.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari”

  1. Given that it is also reported that FCA is to sell off Ferrari, surely the story in Autocar that Alfas will have powertrains branded with “engineered by Ferrari” must be wrong – such a move would devalue the Ferrari brand/ float pretty instantly.

  2. You’d think so but perhaps FCA will pay sufficiently well for Ferrari to put the “Engineered by Ferrari” labels in the post. Ferrari have no problem attaching their name to other dubious merchandise!

  3. BS… I think this may have been an idea introduced by Marchionne and his accounting/finance minions. Those guys fail to realize the car business is not a like a comodities business. There is Heritage, Image, Product competence and trust (driven by consistency) involved in a purchase decision.

    All Fiat needs to do is to keep Alfa seperate from the Fiat, not be using Fiat car engineers and parts to build Alfa’s. And then churn out 2 generations of heritage/tradition respecting, cosistently competitive products.
    This Ferrari idea stinks of ths short term flip and turn strategies the clueless MBA’s try when they get into the auto industry.

  4. Hi Gordon! Thanks for joining the DTW conversation. I agree with you about the importance of keeping the marque boundaries clear. Fiat have not been good about this blurring. They trashed Lancia and may very well wreck Alfa if they haven’t done so already.
    They did once jam a Ferrari V8 in a Lancia Thema though. That worked because the transplant was a properly done job. And the resultant car was reassuringly expensive. It wasn’t badge engineering.

  5. Really, I’m wondering if Marchioone is even good at the things he’s supposed to be good at.

    I can understand someone who is not a ‘car guy’ having a more dispassionate view of Alfa Romeo. As such, he may decide it’s beyond saving and let it die.

    I can also understand that same person saying he doesn’t care about all that traditional ‘driver’s cars’ stuff and that the only worth Alfa has is that the name still has kudos and that a diesel engine SUV might be the perfect Alfa for the 21st Century.

    But if ‘Alfa Romeo’ does have brand credibility, making the Ferrari connection surely just dilutes it.

  6. A bit late, but the cam cover for SEAT engines had “System Porsche” stamped. I had one 😬

    SEAT of course used the fact extensively in their cars commercials and brochures.

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