As the Chinese new car market starts to mature and sales slow, competition, especially at the upper echelons, is becoming much tougher. Growth of the overall Chinese economy is also slowing, with forecasts suggesting a rate of growth not seen since 1990, and this no doubt will play on the minds of managers making decisions about future product development.
For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] brands Alfa Romeo and Maserati, it may mean more delays in new product. Speaking with Bloomberg, people familiar with FCA’s plays said a new sedan and SUV from Alfa Romeo plus a sports car based on 2014’s Alfieri concept car from Maserati were being delayed because of the slowdown in China.
The people said the Alfa Romeo SUV and Maserati sports car were originally planned for launch in 2016 and the new Alfa Romeo sedan originally planned for 2017. The Alfa Romeo SUV in question is a mid-size model and not the small model we’ve already spied testing and due for a reveal in 2016. The sedan, meanwhile, is a new mid-size model and not the small Giulia which is confirmed for sale next summer.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Instead, FCA is said to be focusing on models that CEO Sergio Marchionne has previously described as “more ideally suited” for Europe and North America. For example, Alfa Romeo’s subcompact MiTo and compact Giulietta hatchbacks already on sale in some markets are said to be receiving updates in the first half of 2016. FCA’s original plan for Alfa Romeo was to drop the front-driving hatches and focus on rear-wheel-drive models.
As for Maserati, its upcoming Levante SUV is still on track for a debut at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show next March. But even with this model, Maserati will still find it tough reaching the 50,000 annual vehicles sales target FCA had originally set for 2015. Maserati sold 36,448 vehicles last year but had to cut production of its volume Ghibli and Quattroporte models this year due to slowing demand. It's likely why the new Alfa Romeo mid-size sedan and SUV, which may end up cannibalizing sales of the respective Ghibli and Levante, are among the vehicles said to be delayed.
Marchionne is said to be announcing an updated product plan next month.