“[We] put a little bit of Italy into every vehicle”

La dolce vita

FCA Japan focuses on the joy of driving

 


Text by Toby Waters


La dolce vita — or the good life, in Italian — is a life of beauty and enjoyment, often characterised by indulgence in culture, cuisine and clothing. But, according to Pontus Häggström, president and CEO of FCA Japan Ltd., and Tiziana Alamprese, the firm’s marketing director, the Italian joy of living isn’t found only in cinemas or restaurants — it can also be found in your car.

The Fiat Group from Italy and the Chrysler Group from the United States merged in 2012 to become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). It has become one of the world’s largest car manufacturers in terms of sales and has won many awards in the process.

While improvements and advancements to its products are vital, Häggström believes that the mission of FCA can be boiled down to one fundamental goal: making driving enjoyable.

“We don’t design cars to win awards; we design cars to make people happy and excited,” he says. “Japan is known for cars. There are lots of domestic marques, but many are trade marques focused on transportation and utility. We want to bring more choice to Japanese consumers and help enrich Japan’s automotive culture.”

FCA’s brands Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Abarth, which are all steeped in their Italian roots, let the firm realise this objective.

Häggström, who was born in Sweden, lived in Italy when he was young. His experiences there have had a significant effect on his approach to life and the philosophy he applies at FCA Japan.

“Italians are famous for knowing how to live life with joy,” he says. “We want to share a bit of that with the people who buy our cars, to put a little bit of Italy into every vehicle.”

Alamprese adds that the market in Japan is particularly receptive to this approach.

“I think that the Japanese have an adoration of the Italian way of life,” she says. “We are really lucky because Japanese people love Italy.”

Alfa Romeo recently launched its first diesel models, Giulia and Stelvio. Although FCA is a latecomer to the Japanese diesel market, Häggström believes it has been worth the wait.

“We have historically excelled in making engines, and we’ve always been known to have very dynamic and sensory vehicles,” he says. “We wanted to wait for the Giulia and the Stelvio to become known in the marketplace and to have the right engine to offer the market. Alfa Romeo has always been known for its performance and driving dynamics, and we didn’t want to release diesel vehicles that would disappoint enthusiasts. With this all-aluminium, state-of-the-art engine, we are confident that we are providing two of the sportiest, most fun diesels on the market.”

According to Häggström, the emotional experience starts when you visit the dealer, which is designed to offer the same premium experience as driving an Alfa Romeo. Over the past two years, the entire dealer network has been upgraded in this spirit.

“The Japanese consumer is curious and very knowledgeable, and they appreciate heritage and authenticity — Alfa Romeo meets their expectations,” he explains. “It’s not a performance brand developed by an ad agency. Alfa Romeo has more than 100 years of history, and with our electrification plans and the return to Formula 1, we are excited about building the brand’s legacy in its second century.”

As for Fiat, it has become a well-known and popular car brand in Japan, with the compact Fiat 500 being a long-time bestseller and segment leader. Most notably, it is not only popular with men, but has become the car of choice for many Japanese women. When Alamprese began her work at Fiat in 2005, only 15% of its buyers in Japan were women. Now, that number is at more than 60%.

 

 

Alamprese has made “love branding” a fundamental part of her marketing strategy in Japan. Love, she believes, is a key motivation for people to choose a Fiat, an Abarth or an Alfa Romeo. To win the hearts of Japanese
customers, she has been building a communications platform based on cultural projects that bring together Italian and Japanese art, music and gourmet food. Alamprese is also focused on associating the brands with causes that have a positive impact on Japanese communities.

Her particular focus on empowering Japanese women has been successful in terms of increased engagement and sales.

“The automotive industry is dominated by men,” she says, “but one thing that’s certain is that the real decision makers for more than 80% of the purchases are women — in the sense that even when they are not buying the car themselves, they have a strong influence on the final decision.”

Among its various marketing activities focused on women’s empowerment, FCA Japan promotes NPOs supporting girls’ education, such as Room to Read, and those helping to improve women’s health choices, including I Lady. Alamprese has also created a section on the Fiat website called Ciao Donna to engage with female users in a distinctive way.

For Alfa Romeo, a brand with a unique personality and identity, the focus of Alamprese’s “love branding” for the past eight years has been on helping to create a more inclusive society. Under the umbrella of “Be Yourself”, Alfa Romeo has been supporting diversity in sports, becoming a sponsor of Japan’s national blind soccer team, and has teamed with the Japanese NPO People Design Institute, which envisions a barrier-free world for less-able individuals. The brand is also a long-time supporter of Japan’s LGBT community. A red Alfa Romeo always drives in the Rainbow Pride Parade each year.

“The message is to tell everyone to be themselves, make their own choices and enjoy car life the way they want, not the way they are told to,” Alamprese says.

The work and success of Häggström and Alamprese have not gone unnoticed. Both have been knighted by the President of the Italian Republic for their work to promote Italian automotive culture in Japan.

FCA Japan’s open-hearted, pleasure-focused approach to business is the very definition of la dolce vita.

Whether you’re driving a Fiat, an Alfa Romeo or an Abarth, you can take the good life with you wherever you go. 

“The message is to tell everyone to be themselves, make their own choices and enjoy car life the way they want”

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