Independent car importer Ateco Automotive has recorded an outstanding performance in 2002 according to VFACTS figures released today (8 January 2002) with all the brands it represents recording sales increases in Australia along with useful boosts for Alfa Romeo and Fiat in New Zealand.

Alfa Romeo, which was brought back to Australia by Ateco five years ago and which has shown consistent growth since its rebirth, recorded a 24% increase in sales last year, despite restricted supply of the brand's top selling model, the 147, and the second best selling 156 which was in model change-over mode. Ateco plans to grow Alfa Romeo sales from last year's figure of 2,513 to 2,800 this year with the arrival of the 156 Sportwagon and the 147 GTA.

Ateco took over the Citroën brand for Australia in 1994 and has grown the brand, albeit from a low starting point, by never less than 50% a year. This year Citroën sales grew by 70%, thanks to the strength of the C5, the marque's luxury sedan and hatch that is one of the most technically advanced cars on the market, yet enjoys highly competitive pricing and specification. Citroën's target for 2003 is 3,000 sales, driven by the newly launched C3 and the arrival of the new Berlingo, the latest version of the acclaimed commercial vehicle that has re-defined its market sector.

Kia has more than doubled its Australian sales since its acquisition by Ateco two years ago and was the only Korean car brand to boost its sales in 2002, unlike its rivals that have suffered sharp falls. Ateco has achieved this by tackling new market sectors and boosting its customer service through an enhanced dealer group.

Kia ends the year with the Carnival (Sedona) as the second best selling people mover (minivan) in its class, the Pregio van the third best selling in its class in December, the Rio the top seller in four and five door light cars and the K2700 the second best selling light truck in Australia with more than a quarter of its market sector.

Ateco brought Fiat back to Australia in 2002 with the launch of the Ducato commercial vehicle range, starting with the Maxivan and now including low roof vans and cab chassis versions. Its highly acclaimed JTD common rail direct injection diesel engine has proven very popular with van users thanks to its unique combination of performance and economy. In 2003 Ateco will debut the Fiat car range at the Sydney Motor Show before an on-sale date early in 2004.

Ateco is also the importer of Alfa Romeo and Fiat cars and commercial vehicles in New Zealand, through a wholly owned subsidiary, Ateco Automotive NZ. As in Australia, both brands have enjoyed growth in 2002 with official figures due out later this month set to show an increase of 18% in Fiat and Alfa sales.

With its headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Tempe, Ateco has state offices in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, as well its New Zealand operation. The company directly employs more than 150 people across Australia and New Zealand and operates through a 150-strong dealer network.

Ateco, privately owned by New Zealander Neville Crichton, plans to turn over one billion Australian dollars for the first time in 2003.

"Ateco's performance stands in stark contrast to some of our rivals, who despite bigger budgets and more staff, have either seen their sales stagnate or even sharply decline in a market that grew in 2002," says Crichton, the governing director. "There is no great secret to our achievements with Citroën, Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Kia. We have chosen three brands that have offered significant opportunities for the Australian car market. We have selected models and versions that suit this market perfectly and we have targeted our budgets carefully and accurately to ensure their most effective use.

"At the same time we have not allowed our headcount to blow out as we have increased sales. This means that we have, on a per unit basis, reduced our costs and actually made the company more efficient. Additionally, as a focused and tightly controlled company, we are more agile and can respond more quickly to changing market conditions and demands."

"It must also be said, that as an Australasian based company, our focus is totally based on Australia and New Zealand," Crichton added. "This means that we are not chasing agendas and targets set for and in other countries. We know our own markets, which are unique and require unique business solutions and responses, and how to respond to them to best effect."