As Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne plots an ambitious medium-term volume growth path for Fiat’s Alfa Romeo premium brand, Alfa Romeo’s UK marketing chief has told just-auto that the brand is seeing strong product-led volume growth that is taking the brand to new consumers.

“In particular, the Mito is performing very well for us in a new segment – small cars – and taking our brand to completely new customers, younger people who previously would not have considered purchasing an Alfa Romeo car,” Elena Bernardelli said.

The Alfa Romeo Mito debuted last year and its positive incremental impact on Alfa’s UK sales is clearly evident from a look at Alfa’s UK sales numbers.

In 2009, Alfa’s UK sales were up by 52% on the previous year to 9,067 units. Bernardelli expects sales of the order of 9,500 units this year in a flat UK car market – and one without the scrappage incentive that boosted small cars generally in 2009. The Mito alone should account for around 5,500 units in 2010.

“The volume growth that we have been getting with the addition of the Mito is very much in line with our target,” she maintains.

“We have successfully entered the B-segment with Mito and it is working very well for the brand as a whole.”

She highlights the Mito’s appeal to women, something of a departure from Alfa Romeo’s traditionally male oriented customer base attracted to the brand’s sports values and heritage. 

Bernardelli says that over 50% of Mito’s UK customers have been female.

And getting to new customers is something that Alfa wants to build on with the launch this year of the Giulietta – a replacement for the C-segment 147.

Hollywood actress Uma Thurman figures prominently in the advertising campaign for the Giulietta.

“She is ideal for us in terms of where we are taking the brand,” Bernardelli says. “She is a strong woman and she appeals to both men and women.”

The Giulietta goes on sale in Britain from August and Bernardelli expects the new model to help lift overall UK Alfa Romeo sales to 12,000-13,000 units in 2011.

There are other new product actions ahead and the ‘Giulia’, a 159 replacement, is due out in late 2012, something which Bernardelli says will give Alfa Romeo another significant sales lift in 2013.

Growth of volume in the UK market is important to the brand. It is currently the brand’s third largest market. Alfa Romeo’s overall sales slumped to fewer than 110,000 units last year and Fiat group chief Sergio Marchionne has said that he wants it to sell 350,000 units annually by the middle of the decade. It looks pretty ambitious and requires higher sales in the BRICs, returning to the US market from 2012 and growing sales in established markets on the back of the wave of new product. The new product wave cranks up a gear with the Giulietta, which has had a generally favourable reception from the media.

In the UK, Alfa Romeo’s people reckon that there is the potential to take volume to 25,000 annually in four years’ time, dependent on new product arriving on time. If achieved, that would be over four times higher than Alfa’s 2008 sales level and in line with the overall volume increase that Sergio Marchionne is looking for. If Alfa Romeo is going to get anywhere near that target, it will certainly need to be on top of its game in the highly competitive UK marketplace.

Dave Leggett

See also: UK: Alfa Romeo plans seven new models to revive brand