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Can Jeep, Fiat, Alfa Romeo justify staying in Australia after Holden exit?

The combined total of FCA Australia’s sales last year were less than a quarter of Holden’s tally.

All brands under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia umbrella are here to stay, with right-hand-drive (RHD) production of models justifiable despite less sales volume than Holden.

Speaking to CarsGuide, new FCA Australia boss Kevin Flynn said the local market is crucial to plans of all brands – including Jeep, Fiat, Chrysler and Alfa Romeo.

“We have a tremendous commitment to right-hand drive, and I think it’s pretty devastating news and quite abrupt news that GM are pulling out with Holden – Holden being such an iconic part of Australian life,” he said.

“I actually pulled the whole of our company together the other day outside my office and just recognised that this is not a good day for the industry, and reassured our team of our commitment to right-hand drive and, more importantly, our commitment to Australia.

“We’ve got a big focus on Australia because it’s part and parcel of our volume mix. You need all of that to justify production of models here in right-hand drive, so we’re part of that equation, and therefore there is a real responsibility on what we deliver and what we achieve in Australia, to the point where we’ve got global focus.”

When asked how FCA could justify RHD production when the combined sales of all its brands were less than Holden’s 43,176 units and 10th position in last year’s figures, Mr Flynn said globally, the brands still play in other RHD markets, unlike General Motors.

“We’ve got a number of markets where we are very successful, Japan is one of them, and (Australia) is part of our overall volume strategy,” he said.

“From time-to-time, there may be a certain model that is predominately left-hand drive and may not make sense to be right-hand drive, but we can see an absolutely sold model plan for right-hand-drive markets.

“We’ve got the capability to do right-hand drive, and we’ve got the belief and passion …. And the important element is all of those countries that are in right-hand drive deliver, we need to deliver here.”

For reference, Jeep sold 5519 units last year, a drop of 24.7 per cent year on year, while Alfa Romeo and Fiat finished 2019 with an 891 (-30.3%) and 928 (-19.9%) tally respectively.

Fiat Professional notched 1125 (-10.3%), with Chrysler the only marque in the FCA umbrella growing in 2019 with 292 sales (+16.8%).

Though Ram and Maserati are part of FCA’s global portfolio, in Australia the American pick-up and luxury Italian brands are distributed by Ateco, with the former right-hand-drive converted by American Special Vehicles. Ram sold 2868 units, while 482 Maseratis were registered in 2019.

As such, FCA brands totalled 8755 sales last year.

Mr Flynn admitted that Australia is currently underperforming, but has a plan in place to arrest Jeep’s slowing sales.