Is Alfa Romeo Philippines the Real Deal?
There's been a lot of talk recently in the local automotive scene about the return of Alfa Romeo to the Philippines. After all, the last time the fabled Italian marque was in the country was in the late 1990's under the now-defunct Auto Prominence Corporation. So when a company named Petromax Enterprise started making noise in the early part of the year that it was bringing back Alfa Romeo "after 25 years of absence in the Philippines," everyone's interest was piqued--ours included.
In an interview with another publication published in April, Petromax Enterprise's Allen Ong said that he is coordinating directly with Europe, though he didn't say who or with what company exactly, bypassing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Asia-Pacific (FCA APAC), with whom he should be dealing with in the first place since the Philippines falls directly under its market. According to Ong though, as long as Petromax Enterprise sells original Abarth and Alfa Romeo parts and pays the right taxes, it is operating its business legally. But the question is, is it running its business legitimately or is it misrepresenting the brands it carries? In the same article, FCA APAC Managing Director Mike Tsesmelis himself not only denied his company's interest to enter the Philippine market right now, but also of Ong's claim that FCA will support Petromax Enterprise with the parts and warranty of Alfa Romeo and Abarth vehicles. If FCA APAC has no formal agreement with Petromax Enterprise and if Ong is candid enough to say that he is "connected to Europe," then it stands to reason that he's referring to FCA Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). So a couple of days ago, we sent an email to FCA EMEA--which is based in Turin, Italy--asking about the validity of Petromax Enterprise and about the company presenting itself as "Alfa Romeo Philippines." This is the reply we got from Alfa Romero Brand EMEA Press Officer, Marco Pontida: "Petromax is a gray importer and has been using the Alfa logo and marketing themselves as legitimate. We are already persecuting them. " Interestingly enough, in the same article mentioned above, Ong said that the difference between a gray-market importer and Petromax Enterprise is that the former can't support cars with parts and warranties while with the latter, he wouldn't be pushing through with it if he knew he couldn't get parts and warranties for the cars he'll be selling. If that's the case, then it looks like we'll have to wait for the first few Abarth units sold by Petromax Enterprise to come in for routine servicing or for their first preventive maintenance service to find out if it's the real deal or if it's just putting on a show--that is, unless FCA itself takes the legal route.
UPDATE: Apparently, our email to FCA EMEA has been bounced around the regional offices that FCA APAC has sent us an email as well, categorically stating that "FCA has not appointed a formal distribution partner for the Alfa Romeo and Abarth brands in the Philippines."