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Industry > Rift

The Alfa Romeo-Abarth importation drama continues

The showroom is up and open, but there’s a new development

Allen Ong got his wish of putting up an Alfa Romeo showroom. He can’t relax yet. PHOTO BY ANTONNE SANTIAGO

If you’ve been reading us since the start of the year, you probably already know the story of a Pampanga-based businessman’s not-so-easy quest to bring Alfa Romeo and Abarth to the Philippine market. The guy’s name is Allen Ong, who also happens to own Foton dealerships in Pampanga and Bataan. You probably also know that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Asia-Pacific promptly denied any connection with Ong the moment they read our article. But then the determined entrepreneur insisted he had the blessing of FCA in Europe.

The long and short of it is this: We suspect that Ong indeed has ties in Europe (how else would he have gotten this far?), but FCA doesn’t want to be officially associated with him—at least not now. The company had already been burned by a previous Alfa Romeo importer and seller in the Philippines; that distributor went on to ruin the brand by failing to provide decent after-sales service to customers. It stands to reason, then, that the automaker wouldn’t want its name to be tarnished a second time in our market should Ong’s firm, Petromax Enterprise, turn out to be just as incompetent.

Anyway, Ong went ahead with his plan to put up a showroom—located at Bonaventure Plaza on Connecticut Street corner Ortigas Avenue in San Juan—and said showroom held its soft opening on October 4. At the little event attended mostly by media and friends, Ong showed off a unit of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super Sport.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is one beautiful car. PHOTOS BY ANTONNE SANTIAGO

There was also a pair of Abarth cars: a 595 Turismo and a 695 Rivale Convertible.

The Abarth 595 Turismo is...expensive. PHOTOS BY ANTONNE SANTIAGO

Ong did most of the talking at the event. You could tell he was ecstatic. This was his dream come true. His family was there to support him. He was so happy he distributed red envelopes (with cash) to select guests—a Chinese tradition apparently meant to ward off evil spirits.

Speaking of cash, here’s the complete Alfa Romeo and Abarth price list:

ALFA ROMEO

  • Giulia Quadrifoglio – P9,550,000
  • Giulia Super Sport – P3,820,000

ABARTH

  • 595 (MT) – P2,690,000
  • 595 (AT) – P2,760,000
  • 595 Turismo (AT) – P2,990,000
  • 595 Turismo Convertible (AT) – P3,190,000
  • 595 Competizione (MT) – P3,220,000
  • 595 Competizione (AT) – P3,290,000
  • 595 Competizione Convertible (AT) – P3,490,000
  • 695 Rivale (AT) – P3,560,000
  • 695 Rivale Convertible (AT) – P3,750,000
Ong was clearly in his element when he was talking about the Italian cars to his clients. PHOTO BY ANTONNE SANTIAGO

Here’s the interesting part: Our friends from Carmudi, a website that facilitates car sales, contacted FCA EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) to see if Ong really had links there. According to the article published by the website, the press officer for Alfa Romeo EMEA sent the following reply:

“Petromax is a gray importer and has been using the Alfa logo and marketing themselves as legitimate. We are already persecuting them.”

We think the word the press officer was looking for is “prosecuting,” not “persecuting.” But we digress.

Now, Ong told us this morning that FCA APAC had gotten in touch with him as a result of the Carmudi article. In essence, FCA APAC wants the Alfa Romeo and Abarth logos to be taken down from the facade of Petromax Enterprise’s showroom, as these might give people the impression that the dealership is official (which is exactly what FCA is trying to avoid).

Ong, for his part, referred the matter to his “contact” at FCA in Europe, who, according to him, promised to get back to him regarding the issue. Ong repeated that he had secured approval for the design of his showroom, including the logos in question. He did, however, say that he would comply if FCA demanded the removal of the trademarks. He has now also changed the name of his Facebook page from “Alfa Romeo Philippines” to “Alfa Romeo Petromax Enterprise.”

These Alfa Romeo and Abarth logos are proudly displayed at the showroom’s facade. PHOTO BY ANTONNE SANTIAGO

You know what we think? One of two things must be true.

First, the FCA folks involved in this whole mess are a bunch of douchebags—including and especially the guys from FCA APAC. They had known all along what Allen Ong had been up to since we published our first story back in April—and did NOTHING. Ong told us he had received no communication whatsoever (like, you know, a cease-and-desist order maybe?) from the organization, and now that his showroom is up, FCA’s “brand guardians” are suddenly barking orders.

Or second, Allen Ong is one delusional weirdo who’s merely imagining all the things he narrates to us.

Either way (although it seems pretty obvious which likelihood is more plausible), with negative press like this getting out, it’s Ong’s business that stands to get royally screwed. Who would buy an expensive Italian car from a dealer that the manufacturer itself is constantly portraying as a fly-by-night operation?

Good luck, Mr. Ong. No amount of cash in red envelopes can ward off the weirdness of the predicament you’re in.



Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist for 23 years. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. The rest, as they say, is rock and roll.



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