Marchionne Says Alfa Romeo Return to US Probable in 2012
By Brendan Moore
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has told reporters in Toronto that he sees the Alfa Romeo brand returning to the United States in 2012. He made the remarks last Friday, but there was some confusion about just what was said over the weekend until a Chrysler Media Relations spokesman confirmed Marchionne’s statement earlier today.
According to those present, the Fiat CEO said, when asked about Alfa showing up in North America again, “I’m a lot more confident now that Alfa Romeo will reconstitute a product offering that is acceptable globally, and more in particular in the United States and Canada. There is a strong likelihood that the brand will be back here within the next 24 months.”
Alfa had an ignominious departure from the United States in 1995, after struggling to convince American consumers that a warmed-over Spyder and the expensive 164 sedan were worth passing up those German performance offerings when it came time to put something new in the garage.
In the interest of disclosure, I will tell you that I owned an Alfa Romeo 164 that I bought used in 1999, and what a bargain it was as a used car – the resale value of the 164 models plummeted after Alfa pulled out of the market. It was a great car, and amazingly, for an Alfa of that vintage, quite reliable.
Alfa Romeo has taken some knocks on the global stage since then, selling only 102,000 units total last year. Alfa sold twice that many just ten years ago, but corporate neglect and too many models that are too long in the tooth have conspired to reduce the one-great marque to just scuffling along in the European market. Alfa Romeo has lost money for many consecutive years at this point. Indeed, it was strongly rumored that Fiat was simply going to shutter Alfa last year.
It is an open secret that Fiat is thinking long and hard about making some new Alfas from Chrysler platforms. The next 159, which is sold only in Europe currently, will probably be on some sort of shared FWD Chrysler-Alfa platform, and will be available in both a sedan and combi (station wagon) iteration. According to sources within Fiat, both models would be called Giulia and be built in the United States in order to keep costs down.
Alfa is also planning to replace the slow-selling 166 with a big, new, premium 166 based on the RWD Chrysler 300C platform, according to people close to the development process. This car would debut in 2013, and would be built alongside the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Charger in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Many auto analysts feel that Fiat should focus on Alfa Romeo’s mass-market models and jettison any thoughts of making Alfas in the super-premium range, as it currently does with the breathtakingly desirable and prohibitively expensive 8C. It has been suggested that Alfa Romeos should be to Fiats what Citroëns are to Peugeots and Audis are to Volkswagens – better and more expensive, but not out of reach.
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