Tony O'Kane | Sep 26, 2009

A PLAN TO TIE the ailing Fiat brand to its upmarket subsidiary Maserati is reportedly underway, as local importer Ateco Automotive scrambles to make the marque viable in Australia.

With Fiat's Punto, Ritmo and 500 failing to gain traction in the Australian market, Ateco is apparently investigating cutting back part of Fiat's dealer network and piggybacking the brand off Maserati.

The strategy would reduce costs associated with selling and maintaining the brand in Australia. Ateco's Governing Director Neville Crichton reportedly believes it would generate a substantial synergy between Fiat and Maserati.

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It is not without risk of course. Re-positioning Fiat as a more aspirational brand by selling it alongside the significantly upmarket Maserati range may not attract buyers who would not otherwise walk into a Fiat dealership.

And, with Maserati's sales to August of this year down to 84 cars (compared to 162 cars the year before), showroom traffic may not be enough to get a meaningful turnaround of fortune for Fiat.

Ateco loses money on most Fiat vehicles that it imports, and is currently discussing with Fiat headquarters how to solve the brand's profitability problem in Australia.

A Fiat/Maserati tie-up is just one option on the table. A decision on where to take Fiat in Australia is expected to be made by the end of this year.

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