Alfa Romeo and DS Automobiles confirms switch to agency agreements with its dealers in 2023

  • Alfa Romeo and DS Automobiles will roll out agency sales model in May 2023
  • Part of major new plans to ‘improve customer service and experience’
  • Alfa UK boss says move will bring ‘consistency’ to dealer network and quality of service

Time 6:39 am, February 24, 2022

Alfa Romeo and DS Automobiles will roll out agency agreements with its UK dealers as soon as next year.

The two manufacturers, which sit in the premium division of Stellantis’s group of car brands, have told its separate dealer networks it will be transitioning to an agency sales model in May 2023.

Alfa Romeo and Jeep UK managing director Damien Dally told Car Dealer the move will bring ‘consistency’ to the Italian brand’s dealer network and customer service – the latter being a key focus for Dally this year and beyond.

A DS Automobiles spokesperson confirmed the French premium brand will switch from franchise to agency next year.

The two brands will join Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen in transitioning to agency sales.

Mercedes-Benz sealed a deal with its European dealers, including UK retailers, two months ago.

Some 50 per cent of its cars and vans are expected to be sold under agency sales by 2023.

Volkswagen, meanwhile, confirmed to Car Dealer last year it intends to implement an agency model for the sale of its pure electric cars.

The German carmaker is also considering rolling out the model to its other brands.

If Stellantis’s plan keeps to schedule in May 2023, it will be exactly two years on since the car group served its 931-strong European and UK dealer network on a two-year notice in a bid to ‘streamline’ operations.

It put dealers into categories branded ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’, with ‘A’ dealers guaranteed a future relationship, ‘B’ requiring discussions and plans to be drawn up for a future partnership, while ‘C’ dealers faced likely terminations.

Dally told Car Dealer that a small number of the 46-strong UK Alfa Romeo dealer network are in this ‘C’ category.

New focus on quality

An agency model sees dealers paid a handling fee for dealing with new car sales.

The car manufacturer sells the cars directly to consumers via its main website, often with a no-haggle pricing structure.

One of the main appealing features of agency sales to car manufacturers is it controls the customer transaction and makes the process consistent across its network, while the dealer can focus on delivering excellent customer service.

Alfa Romeo UK boss Dally is clear the quality of customer service needs to improve.

He said: ‘It’s important we’re able to deliver the right customer experience, which has, let’s be honest, been an area we’ve been inconsistent with previously.

‘This has a really big focus going forwards and has been for the past 12 months since the merger.’

He added: ‘We need to make sure that when the customer walks into an Alfa Romeo showroom they get a dedicated level of experience.

‘Our customers are incredibly knowledgeable when they come into the showroom, so we have to be 20 per cent better.

‘The dangers is if you’re not, then you don’t fulfil the brand promise.

‘We need to make sure we have the right partners with the right viable business proposition so that they can deliver our brand values to our customer base.’

He went on to say: ‘With agency, there is a lot of concern – humans don’t like change, but I think change is good and healthy. This industry has probably not changed as much as other industries in our life times.’

Dally was speaking to Car Dealer at the UK reveal of the new Tonale – Alfa Romeo’s new c-segment SUV.

With a simple three-tier trim line-up and powered by mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, it’s hoped the Tonale will catapult Alfa back onto the shortlists of many premium customers.

The new car, which sits under the Stelvio SUV, will get its public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June, followed by order books opening in July.

The mild-hybrid will be the first car to arrive in September, followed by the plug-in hybrid in December.

The Tonale is the first in a product blitz for the Alfa brand, which has a newly-found sense of confidence after recently returning to profit under new boss Jean-Philippe Imparato.

Alfa Romeo plans to introduce one new model a year to its showrooms over the next 10 years, and will be a fully-electric brand by 2027.

Along with the wave of new products, the Tonale sparks a renewed focus on quality – both in terms of product and customer experience.

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In the UK, the Tonale is tasked with taking the lion’s share of Alfa sales.

‘Last year we sold 1,600 cars which was disappointing,’ said Dally.

‘We will be pushing to sell 2,500-3,000 Tonales a year.’

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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