But what can motivate a director of the Peugeot brand (1.12 million vehicles last year) to give up his post to take the head of a label in absolute escheat, which has sold less than 60,000 cars last year (including 36,500 in Europe alone, 18,500 in the United States)? “Passion”, insists Jean-Philippe Imparato. “My father drove an Alfa Giulietta (1954-1964), and, when I was born, a Giulia (1962-1977), then an Alfetta (1973), a GTV V6 coupe (1976). And the first car in my woman was a red Alfasud (1972-1984) “, explains to Challenges this 54-year-old southerner, who spent thirty years at PSA. “I am not pursuing a career. Otherwise, we would have to do something else,” he concedes with humor and without hiding the difficulty of his bet. But “it is a personal challenge to relaunch such a brand”.
Alfa’s reconnecting with the mythical past
Alfa Romeo is today one of the fourteen brands of Stellantis, the group born at the start of the year from the merger between PSA and FCA (Fiat Chrysler). “When the merger project was launched, I heard it said that we were not going to be able to keep all these brands. By appointing one of its executives at the head of Alfa, Carlos Tavares (general manager of
Stellantis) wanted to send a message to reassure the internal and external on its sustainability. “Peugeot boss since July 2016, Jean-Philippe Imparato is therefore moving to Turin on Wednesday, January 27, to live there with his woman. And, from the 29th, “I am going to visit the Alfa d’Arese museum with Jean-Pierre Ploué (style director of the group’s European brands) to study his past.” He is preparing to form a team “in fashion start-up “. Goal:” to present in September 2021 a recovery plan with a clear positioning and several products. “Cars worthy of history, which” draw on the stylistic codes of the past, breathe passion, which are accessible and… quality “. That said in reference to the very poor reputation in the field of the prestigious label with the coat of arms of the Visconti. Indeed,” in my father’s time, two Alfa’s were needed “, implying one that runs when the another was in the garage.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
The challenge is extremely tough, as this emblematic brand, which had its heyday in the 1960s, had been roughed up until now. Born 110 years ago, this one has chained long chaotic periods and ephemeral revivals. Bought in 1986 by Fiat, it was due at the end of its last plan to sell … 400,000 vehicles in 2018-2019. The ace. Due to a lack of strategic continuity and investments, the firm only released two (the very beautiful Giulia and Stelvio) of the eight planned products and it was a failure! The firm has sold five times fewer vehicles than expected. And Alfa hasn’t released anything new since 2017.
Today, its range is reduced to just two upper-middle-range vehicles. The third, the compact Giulietta sedan, is ten years old and will be discontinued very soon. We have been waiting for a compact SUV for fifteen years. But this one, baptized Tonale and which must be presented next September, will not arrive in the dealerships, at best, before the beginning of 2022. And, for it to meet the success, it would be necessary that its chassis, resulting from the Jeep Compass, that is to say up to the task with CO2 emissions low enough not to be taxed by the penalty (in France). Not won. The Italian firm, which was in the 1960s, the Italian BMW, now sells 35 times fewer vehicles than the Bavarian rival! And its current trade scores are a third of that of the early 1970s. Inglorious. A real historical regression.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Cultural proximity to Italy
But Jean-Philippe Imparato wants to believe in the potential of the transalpine manufacturer and in the strength of the myth. “There are still fans, even if they buy BMWs today,” he quipped. The problem is that creating sports cars in the current very anti-car European context will prove to be very difficult. To establish his legitimacy to breathe new life into the brand, the man can however take advantage of his success at Peugeot, with a very good move upmarket driven it is true by his predecessor within the lion firm, Maxime Picat , now Europe Director of Stellantis. In any case, Jean-Philippe Imparato will be able to adorn himself in Turin with its cultural proximity to Italy. Wasn’t his great-grandfather an “Italian sailor who had taken the boat in the port of Gaeta (between Rome and Naples) to disembark at Sète in… 1904”? Himself a native of Sète, Jean-Philippe has gone the other way, directing Citroën Italy between 2007 and 2020. Italian-speaking, he says he has always been very attracted to the peninsula. “Italians know how to make everyday objects beautiful, they are industrious, with a positive state of mind and always a solution to solve a problem,” he explains. Indispensable qualities to raise the bar!