Officine Abarth is next door to Centro Stile, the chief design studio for the European brands within Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), which is why Alvisi frequently gets sketches dropped on his desk, along with plenty of other suggestions for this increasingly vibrant brand. He has been
in the job only a few weeks, having arrived from Alfa Romeo (and, before that, Ducati) as a self-confessed “brand addict”. He’s also an enthusiast, as a glass cabinet full of memorabilia and models attests. (In there are Abarths and an Alfasud, his dad’s one-time family wheels.) We’re here to find out where Abarth has got to and where it’s going next now that this reborn marque has been in business for a decade.
The model that fired the
gun on the rebirth in 2007
was the Abarth Grande
Punto, which was joined by
the Abarth 500 a year later.
As with its Fiat sibling, the
Abarth 500 has evolved into a
heap of different editions, convertible included, featuring an array of power outputs, trim variations and limited editions. At least as exciting as these was the arrival in October last year of the Abarth 124 Spider. The Scorpion unexpectedly acquired the chance for a two-seater after FCA boss Sergio Marchionne changed his mind about Alfa Romeo using Mazda’s MX-5 as the basis for a new Spider. Fiat got the car instead, allowing Abarth to profit. A bit too much, perhaps, given the rather lofty prices for the otherwise tempting Abarth Spider.
Appealing products have given Abarth momentum but, as Alvisi explains, there’s more: “The real change came in 2015, when sales doubled. It was 4000-5000 at the beginning and has now grown to over 18,000 [for Europe, Middle
East and Africa] last year.” The big leap was achieved by increasing the number of FCA dealers holding the Abarth franchise, allowing more cars to find more owners. And it’s selling more tuning kits, too, with shipments of the wooden crates that Abarth sends parts in exceeding 10,000 units.
Raising Abarth awareness has been a mission. “Where there’s passion, there’s a community across the brand,” says Alvisi of something he learned while working for Ducati. “Interest in Abarth was growing,
so we opened The Scorpionship 16 months ago and gathered 100,000 people through social networks for events, track days and technology workshops. We want to put people in the cars and in touch with the history, and we need people to get on track with the cars. If you don’t drive an Abarth, you won’t understand.”
You can join The Scorpionship as an owner or a dreamer. And collectors of older examples now have a register, as well as a factory restoration service, which has already completed more than 10 cars. These activities are as much about burnishing the desirability of Abarth as highlighting the romance of restoring old models. Alvisi points out that “the residual values of Abarths haven’t collapsed”, as a look online at older used examples confirms. “Strong used values are fundamental for success,” he adds.