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Chinese shipment ban hits Alfa, Maserati

by Chris Vander Doelen on

Restrictive new dealer supply rules in China have led to a shipment collapse for Alfa Romeo in that country and temporary layoffs at FCA’s Alfa and Maserati plants in Italy.

The company doesn’t want to talk about it, but it appears a Chinese ban on a push-style supply system for imported vehicles saw deliveries of the Alfa Stelvio to dealers plummet 90 per cent between July and August of this year.

2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia, courtesy of FCA

And now the company has told its workers’ unions in Italy it has to cut production of Alfa Romeo and Maserati in two plants this month to make up for the lost deliveries. The story is here in Automotive News.

Apparently, the Chinese authorities have taken a stern dislike to traditional push-style automotive production, in which the factory pumps out the units and dealers have to take them whether they want them or not. The Detroit automakers and some of their dealers have been warring over this system of moving the metal for half a century. The system was largely curtailed after the 2008 industry crisis.

No doubt the Chinese see push-production as the dumping of exported products into their country, a trade no-no which they would never employ themselves as they send millions of container loads of cheap stuff out into the world every year.

Shipments of the Stelvio to China, which were at a healthy 2,666 in July, were slashed to 227 in August after the ban took effect. Production at FCA’s Cassino plant has been cut to 265 units per shift, down from 300 units, and workers sent home for four Fridays in a row to rebalance production.

Shipments of the Maserati Levante have dropped from 800 units a month to about 300, the story says. The plant in Turin will be down for two weeks at the end of October and into November to compensate, FCA’s unions say.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio, courtesy of FCA

One bright spot for the Italian plants is that overall production is up this year, thanks to the Alfa and Maserati launches, and strong sales of the Jeep Renegade, which is built alongside the Fiat 500x at FCA’s plant in Melfi, Italy. Trade warrior Donald Trump has not yet set his sights on imports from Italy — 55 per cent of Melfi’s Renegade production is exported to the U.S. — diverted as he is by fighting with Mexico and Canada over NAFTA.

Chris Vander Doelen was Opinion Editor and columnist of The Windsor Star until December, 2016; he was the Star's automotive reporter and columnist for seven years, and had also covered the political and gambling beats. With his wife, Veronique Mandal, he wrote the book Chasing Lightning (1999). Chris won a National Newspaper Award in 1997 and more than a dozen provincial news awards. There is a Chrysler 300 in his driveway.

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