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Alfa Romeo's high goals doubted by analysts Luca Ciferri
Automotive News Europe | June 29, 2015 06:01 CET
TURIN -- Analysts are skeptical that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne can achieve his ambitious sales goals for Alfa Romeo.
"Despite our love of Alfa's past, we're unconvinced by its future," said Max Warburton, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.
"While it has history, turning it into a credible premium player will be like launching a new company. It took Audi 20 years or more," Warburton added.
In his view, Alfa's product revival will swallow a significant sum of capital and has no chance of posting profits in its first product cycle.
The Giulia is the first model in FCA's 5 billion euro ($5.6 billion) plan for Alfa. Confirmed by sources so far are three models: the Giulia, a large SUV in late 2016 and a flagship sedan in 2017.
Consultant IHS expects global Alfa sales of 67,500 this year, down from 68,300 last year, with the current, neglected lineup. Minimal investment in the past decade reduced Alfa to just two mainstream models -- the MiTo subcompact and the Giulietta compact, sold mainly in Europe -- and just the low-volume models for global markets, the 4C coupe and Spider.
In May 2014, FCA unveiled a plan for Alfa that envisioned eight new models from 2015 through 2018. The lineup would generate 400,000 global sales by 2018 -- about 150,000 from North America.
"Despite our love of Alfa's past, we're unconvinced by its future."
Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd.
Marchionne at last week reconfirmed the 400,000 Alfa sales target by 2018, adding only that a second model will debut six months after the Giulia.
Warburton estimates that 130,000 of these North American sales should come from the U.S. -- if it were to achieve that 150,000-unit goal. However, he does not see an Alfa range broad enough to reach such a volume.
"It is clear that in the U.S., car sales grow pretty much in proportion to how many models OEMs offer. Audi sells 180,000 units in the U.S. with over 20 models [on various nameplates], Infiniti 120,000 with about 10 models. It seems inconceivable Alfa could hit its North America target with just two or three cars," Warburton said.
Nostalgia isn't enough
George Galliers, an auto analyst at the Evercore ISI brokerage house in London, said, "5 billion euros and nostalgia doesn't equal 400,000 units in 2018."
In his view, Alfa Romeo is a niche brand favored by enthusiasts who tend to be ruled by their heart over their head.
"Such brands' unit sales growth tends to be strong at first, given low bases and the rush of enthusiasts to the product, but plateaus very quickly as mainstream buyers stay away," he added.
Galliers noted that similar sales patterns are prevalent at other niche brands, such as Maserati and Jaguar.
Galliers called for a "blue sky" scenario where Alfa sales could reach 330,000 units by 2018, while IHS forecasts just 216,000, slightly more than half of the 400,000 target. LMC Automotive predicts 251,000 units in 2018.
"If the Giulia doesn't meet expectations, then Marchionne could finally let it lie" with the brand, said Ian Fletcher, an analyst at IHS in London.
The Giulia is the first model in FCA's revival plan for Alfa.
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Alfa unveils high-performance Giulia Luca Ciferri
Automotive News Europe | June 24, 2015 18:42 CET
TURIN – The Alfa Romeo Giulia’s most sporty version will offer more power than rival models from BMW and Mercedes-Benz because it will use Maserati's Ferrari-derived 510-hp V-6 engine.
Dubbed the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the car was unveiled today at the Alfa Romeo museum in Arese, Italy, outside Milan. It will be the first Giulia variant to go on sale as Alfa emphasizes performance in a bid to gain an edge over its German premium rivals.
The Giulia “embodies the core elements which have made Alfa Romeo one of the world's best-loved automotive brands -- distinctive Italian design; innovative powertrains, perfect weight distribution, unique technical solutions and the best weight-to-power ratio," Alfa Romeo said in a statement.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio (cloverleaf in Italian) is powered by twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine used in the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio delivers 85 hp more power than the BMW M3 (425 hp), which also is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine.
The hottest variant of the Mercedes-Benz C class, called AMG C63 S, has the same power as its Alfa rival but uses a much larger engine: a twin-turbocharged 4.0 liter V-8.
The C class with an engine comparable in size to the Giulia Quadrifoglio's is the C-450 AMG, which has a 3.0-liter V-6 turbocharged engine that delivers 367 hp.
Audi does not offer a direct competitor to the Giulia Quadrifoglio at the moment.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio has the fastest acceleration in its class. The car goes 0 to 100kph (62mph) in 3.9 seconds, compared with the BMW M3’s 4.1 seconds and 4 seconds for the Mercedes AMG C63 S.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio's aggressive rear is dominated by four exhaust pipes and a thin carbon fiber spoiler above the trunk lid.
The Alfa will be offered only with rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission. A carbon fiber hood and roof help reduce weight to about 1,500kg.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio will go on sale in Europe early next year and in the U.S. a few months later. Other Giulia versions will follow later including all-wheel-drive models and diesels for Europe.
The sedan is the first model in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 5 billion euro relaunch plan for Alfa that aims to increase the money-losing brand's annual global sales to 400,000 by 2018 from 70,000 last year.
“The Giulia will undoubtedly help Alfa significantly. The challenge is most significant in the U.S. market where the brand has almost no existing image in the eyes of U.S. consumers and no exclusive retail network,” market researchers at IHS Automotive said ahead of the launch event. IHS forecasts annual sales in the mid-40,000s for the Giulia once it is available in all its markets.
The Giuilia Quadrifoglio has the cloverleaf badge that Alfa uses on its most sporty models.
The Giulia launch will be followed by Alfa's first SUV early in 2017 and a full-sized sedan in late 2017 as FCA broadens Alfa’s lineup beyond the Giulia compact, Mito subcompact and and the limited-run 4c sports car.
An Alfa Skunkworks of engineers, designers and stylists has developed a new rear-wheel-/all-wheel-drive platform called Giorgio for the models.
Alfa touts technical innovations such as a double-clutch Torque Vectoring system that allows the rear differential to control the torque delivery to each wheel independently, improving traction in low grip conditions without having to run up against an invasive stability control system.
An electromechanical brake system combines stability control and a traditional servo brake for instantaneous brake response and what Alfa says are record-breaking stopping distances.
The Giulia also has a new Alfa system to modify the car's dynamic behavior according to the driver's selection: Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficient (a new energy-efficiency mode) and Racing for high performance versions.
The Giulia has large air intakes in the lower part of the nose as well as two heat outtakes on the carbon fiber engine hood.
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Alfa Romeo will launch top Giulia version as BMW M3 fighter Luca Ciferri
Automotive News Europe | June 23, 2015 21:10 CET
TURIN -- Alfa Romeo will unveil the range-topping version of its new Giulia sedan on Wednesday. The car is called the Giulia Quadrifoglio and it will be a competitor to the BMW M3 and Audi RS 4, sources said.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' sporty Italian brand plans to use performance to stand out against its German premium rivals.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio will be the first example of the strategy. It is powered by a 510-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine derived from the unit that Ferrari builds for the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans, according to supplier sources.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio will be offered only with rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission, sources said ahead of tomorrow's unveiling. A carbon fiber hood and roof help reduce weight to about 1,500kg.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio will go on sale in Europe early next year and in the U.S. a few months later as the first variant of Alfa's new Giulia midsize sedan that will play a crucial role in the brand's revival.
Photos and some details about the car began to leak on Tuesday ahead of its world introduction on Wednesday.
The Giulia's core gasoline engine will be a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit. Europe will get diesels including a 3.0-liter V-6 currently offered by Jeep and Maserati.
The Giulia is underpinned by Alfa’s new rear-wheel-/all-wheel-drive Giorgio platform. Fiat Chrysler is investing $8 billion in a bid to increase Alfa's annual global sales to 400,000 by 2018 from 70,000 last year and end years of losses at the brand that has suffered from a lack of fresh product.
The Giulia's launch will be followed by the introduction of Alfa's first SUV early in 2017. The midsize crossover will be a rival to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
A large sedan is due to be launched in late 2017 to compete with the Audi A6 and BMW 5 series and replaces the Alfa 166 that was discontinued in 2007.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio will be unveiled in the early evening local time on Wednesday at the Alfa Romeo museum in Arese, outside Milan, on the 105th anniversary of the foundation of Alfa as the acronym of Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili. The car also debuts a new version of Alfa’s logo.
The Giulia is pictured being prepared for its unveiling. It has a rear spoiler, black wheels and twin tailpipes.Photo credit: www.automoto.it
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Alfa Romeo revival could win merger partner for Fiat Chrysler
MILAN (Reuters) -- The Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan will be the lynchpin of the Italian sporty brand's turnaround plan and potentially an opportunity to attract a cash-rich merger partner for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
CEO Sergio Marchionne is betting on the 105-year-old Alfa brand to help FCA take on German rivals BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the fast-growing and high-margin market for premium cars.
The midsize Giulia will have a range-topping six-cylinder engine derived from FCA's top-end Ferrari brand and will draw on Alfa's racing heritage to help it stand out against "boring German rivals," supplier sources told Reuters.
But Marchionne faces an uphill battle to convince drivers that Alfa has shed a reputation for poor quality and service, and to persuade investors he has the formula -- and money -- to succeed where previous relaunches have failed.
Some industry observers including Bernstein analyst Max Warburton believe that potential partners are the real audience the company will be targeting with the Alfa relaunch. While the new car will probably "look great and boast huge power and performance ... we think it is still developed on the cheap, far from production ready and unlikely to sell in large quantities," he said. "It is a high-stakes plan, aimed at building credibility with any potential acquirer of FCA."
The new Giulia and seven models expected to follow, including an SUV, will have to challenge well-established brands which are leaders in innovation and have the backing of financially strong parent companies.
In contrast, FCA is laden with debt, its margins are under pressure in its North American profit center where demand appears to be nearing a peak, and it is also battling a steep downturn in another major market, Brazil.
"It's not impossible but it's a tall order and there is no margin for error," said Giacomo Mori, a managing director at advisory firm AlixPartners in Italy. "Alfa has to offer all the technology and perks that are a given in those German cars and something else."
Perhaps reflecting doubts over his ability to fund his 48-billion-euro ($54 billion) turnaround plan for FCA, Marchionne has recently stepped up a campaign to find a merger partner, and targeted General Motors in particular. GM, which will be talking up a new Chevrolet lineup at a separate event on Wednesday, has so far spurned FCA's advances. But a strong Alfa revamp would give FCA more credibility in any future merger talks.
Fiat bought Alfa in 1986. But several attempts at reviving the brand have stalled, leaving just four models. Only around 72,000 Alfas were sold last year. Marchionne is aiming to lift that to 400,000 by 2018, committing 5 billion euros to the brand -- much more than previous turnaround efforts.
Stephanie Brinley, an analyst at forecaster IHS Automotive, said Wednesday's launch alone would not be enough to judge his chances of success. "It will be the full lineup and what they do over the next decade to make it into a truly competitive brand that will be decisive," she said. "It took Audi 10-15 years to come back."
IHS expects Alfa sales to reach about 216,000 cars by 2018.
The new Giulia, a rival to the BMW 3 series and Audi A4, will go on sale early next year. It will sit on a rear-wheel platform and shares its name also with a popular predecessor from the 1960s and 1970s.
Critics cite concerns about distribution, especially in the United States, where Alfa has been absent since 1995 but where FCA hopes to sell 150,000 vehicles annually by 2018.
Falling sales at sister-brand Maserati have also raised concerns over FCA's ability to keep customers happy long term.
There are doubts too whether FCA has the muscle to compete with its German rivals, which have built up formidable global scale in everything from engines to dealer networks, and are pioneering new technologies such as Internet-connected cars.
'Young and foolish'
Marchionne has said he will "pull the plug" on his plan for Alfa or revisit targets if the first model does not take off. But he is confident of success, having personally tested the new car on the track and repeatedly sent engineers back to the drawing board over the past three years.
"I was a driver of German makes before I came to Fiat. I used to drive a BMW M5 when I was young and foolish ... With the new Alfa we are on par if not better," he said at a recent car show.
Alfa Romeo readies unveiling of key Giulia midsize sedan Luca Ciferri
Automotive News Europe | June 21, 2015 06:01 CET
TURIN -- Alfa Romeo’s new Giulia midsize sedan, which will be unveiled Wednesday, is crucial to the struggling brand’s revival.
The Giulia will sit on Alfa’s new rear-wheel-/all-wheel-drive Giorgio platform and offer high-performance engines, including a Maserati-derived V-6.
The BMW 3 series rival is scheduled to arrive at European dealerships in February and March next year and in the U.S. a few months later. Alfa may add coupe and spider variants later.
Alfa will introduce newly developed high-performance engines on the sedan to compete better against BMW and Audi. The range-topping 510-hp V-6 gasoline engine with twin turbochargers has been re-engineered from an engine built by Ferrari for the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans. The Giulia's core gasoline engine will be a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder available in outputs of 180 hp, 250 hp and 330 hp.
The top diesel will be a 3.0-liter V-6 currently offered by Jeep and Maserati that is sourced from VM Motori. VM Motori added a new four-valve per cylinder head and a second turbocharger to increase the Alfa version’s output to 340 hp from 275 hp. Alfa will also use a higher output variant of a revised 2.2-liter powerplant just introduced by Jeep and derived from Fiat Chrysler’s 2.0-liter diesel. The engine has a top output of 210 hp but also will be offered in more fuel-efficient 135-hp and 180-hp variants.
The Giulia will be the first volume Alfa brought to market since the MiTo subcompact launched in 2008. An earlier Giulia was Alfa’s best-selling car in the 1960s and 1970s. Alfa parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles needs the modern Giulia to have similar success to help end years of losses at the brand. FCA does not break out Alfa's financial results, but analysts say the brand has been a huge money loser for at least 10 years.
Code-named project 952 and delayed a number of times in the past four years, the Giulia is the successor to the Europe-only 159 model, which was discontinued in 2011.
Alfa plans to begin Giulia production in November. Two supplier sources told ANE that they fear start of production will be postponed until the end of the year because of quality glitches, delaying the launch until March. One area where the Giulia is far from it set targets is noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), a source said.
The Giulia will be unveiled on the 105th anniversary of the foundation of Alfa as the acronym of Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili. The unveiling will take place at the Alfa Romeo museum in Arese, outside Milan, where the carmaker was based from 1963 until Fiat took over the brand in 1986. Its public debut will be at the Frankfurt auto show in September.
Alfa will begin sales of its first SUV, code-named project 949, early 2017. The midsize model will be a rival to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
A flagship, large sedan will arrive in late 2017, sources from suppliers involved in the project told Automotive News Europe. Code-named project 961 and set to enter production in mid-2017, the sedan will compete with the Audi A6 and BMW 5 series and replaces the Alfa 166 that was discontinued in 2007.
Hidden under a modified Fiat 500L-body, the test mule of Alfa's new SUV is pictured undergoing road tests.
Photo credit: Automedia
The three models are the first of eight cars planned under FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne’s strategy to transform the iconic but niche sporty marque into a premium brand capable of challenging BMW and Audi.
Marchionne aims to increase Alfa’s annual global sales to 400,000 by 2018. Last year the brand sold fewer than 70,000 units. Alfa currently sells just two volume models, the Giulietta compact and MiTo subcompact, mainly in Europe
By 2018, about 150,000 of Alfa's planned 400,000 annual global are expected to come from North America.
Alfa Romeo may only reach half its target. IHS Automotive forecasts deliveries of about 216,000 cars in 2018, up from 68,300 last year and 67,500 forecast for this year.
IHS Automotive estimates Alfa will sell about 36,000 Giulias globally next year, with volume peaking at 48,000 units in 2018.
The Giulia and the large sedan, as well as the midsize SUV, will be built at FCA's factory in Cassino, Italy, near Rome. The automaker began retooling the plant last summer and has invested nearly 800 million euros to make the upgrade.
Early this month production of the Giulia began in Cassino to test the newly installed tooling. To maintain secrecy, Cassino’s workers are required to leave their cell phones before entering the assembly line, Italian media reported.
IHS estimates sales of the new SUV will be below 10,000 units in its first year, peaking at 23,000 in 2017. The market researcher sees limited potential for Alfa's flagship sedan, predicting sales will peak at 11,000 units in 2018.
Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on its plans for Alfa ahead of Wednesday's Giulia unveiling.
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4C Spider aims to reignite passion
New Alfa evokes exotics, celebrates racing heritage David Phillips
Automotive News | June 21, 2015 - 12:01 am EST
CARMEL, Calif. -- Alfa Romeo's 4C coupe and Spider are the opening salvos in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' grand -- some say audacious -- plan to put the famed Italian brand on par with BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar.
The next salvo comes this week, when Alfa Romeo unveils a new midsize luxury sport sedan that takes direct aim at the BMW 3 series, Jaguar XE and Audi A4. It goes on sale in early 2016 and will be followed by seven more all-new products designed to expand Alfa's appeal beyond Italy and southern Europe.
The 4C Spider hopes to reignite passions for Alfa's racing heritage and Italian design while putting the brand back on the radar of wealthy households and collectors ahead of the coming product blitz.
The recipe is simple: Attract eyeballs and enthusiasts with styling that evokes more expensive exotics; adopt an exclusive midengine layout for optimal weight distribution; add advanced, lightweight materials; and top it off with the guttural sounds and performance of an Italian race car.
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
Turbocharged 1.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine that cranks out 237 hp, 258 pounds-feet of torque; twin-clutch six-speed automated manual transmissionFeatures to notice:
Alfa's "DNA" switch allows the driver to change among dynamic, natural and all-weather modes. Available carbon-fiber removable "halo," or roof panel, and hard top. LED taillamps. An optional Track Package includes high-performance shock absorbers, performance flat-bottom steering wheel and carbon-fiber side mirrors. Later in the model year, an all-new optional Akrapovic dual-mode exhaust system featuring dual, center-mounted tips with carbon-fiber surround and signature sound will be available. It is one of three available exhaust systems on the 4C convertible.Safety:
Standard safety equipment includes all-speed traction control, electronic stability control, antilock brakes and a driver knee airbag. Cruise control, security alarm and rear park assist are available.Target:
Combined output of the hand-built 4C coupe and Spider will be capped at 2,500 in 2015, just enough to ensure that most Alfa enthusiasts, collectors and fans of Italian design and performance have a shot at one.Competitors:
Porsche Cayman and Boxster; BMW Z4; Jaguar F-Type; and Lotus Elise, Evora and ExigeStrengths:
Lighter than the competition. Rich, Italian heritage and racy styling is a nice counter to the latest crop of German sports cars.Weaknesses:
The lack of a traditional manual transmission may turn away some prospects even if the dual-clutch transmission is fast. Wind noise and exhaust can get loud at constant speeds. Some observers deride the 4C as too derivative of the Lotus Elise.Bottom line
: Alfa is pitching the 4C Spider as a less expensive alternative to some exotic brands without sacrificing what North America boss Reid Bigland calls "supercar-level performance and capability." 4C coupe and Spider output will be limited — helping maintain exclusivity and pricing.
The Spider comes to market in August when high-performance vehicle sales are on the upswing, driven in large part by luxury brands, though car demand is weak. The result is an open-air sports car that pays homage to Alfa's racing and performance bona fides and heralds a global product blitz.
| ||2015 Alfa 4C Spider||2016 Porsche Boxster||2016 BMW Z4|
|Wheelbase||93.7 in.||97.4 in.||98.3 in.|
|Length||157 in.||172.2 in.||167 in.|
|Width||73.5 in.||70.9 in.||70.5 in.|
|Height||46.7 in.||50.5 in.||50.8 in.|
|Curb weight||2,487 lbs.||2,888 lbs.||3,263 lbs.|
|Base engine||1.7-liter I-4||2.7-liter flat 6||2.0-liter turbo 4|
|Horsepower||237 @ 6,000 rpm||265 @ 6,700 rpm||240 @ 5,000 rpm|
|Torque, lbs.-ft.||258 @ 2,200-4,250 rpm||206 @ 4,500 rpm||260 @ 1,450 rpm|
|EPA mpg||24 city/34 hwy.||20 city/30 hwy.||22 city/34 hwy.|
Alfa hopes the 4C Spider will attract wealthy buyers.
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The new Alfa Romeo sedan, which may or may not be called Giulia, will debut on June 24.
Engine from the 'New Dino' expected in new Alfa Romeo midsize sedan
The new Alfa Romeo sedan, set to debut in a matter of days, is expected to feature a Ferrari-derived V6 engine underhood, Autocar reports. Known internally as "Type 949," the new midsize sedan, expected to be badged Giulia, has been in development for the last few years. Until recently, very little concrete information has leaked out about the upcoming midsizer that is aimed at resuscitating Alfa Romeo sales.
Speaking with Alfa Romeo and Maserati boss Harald Wester, Autocar has learned that the Type 949 will feature a rear-wheel drive layout and will share some mechanical components with the Maserati Ghibli.
The new midsize sedan is expected to be powered by a new four-cylinder engine in base form packing nearly 300 hp, a unit that will replace the 1.75-liter engine in the Alfa Romeo 4C.
But the larger engine in the range is expected to be a V6 that will be shared with the "New Dino," which is currently in development. This is a surprising bit of news, as the Giulia had been expected to use a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 from the Maserati Ghibli until now. Wester also indicated that the new Alfa Romeo sedan will stay true to the brand's character and will not feature any self-driving tech, and that the new sedan will present a contrast to its German competition, which Wester described as clinical and cold.
The new Alfa Romeo sedan will be revealed on June 24 at the Expo Milan in Italy. We'll be there to bring it to you as soon as the car is unveiled. The sedan has been delayed a number of times, its debut pushed from 2011 to 2013 and later to 2015 as Sergio Marchionne, who headed Alfa Romeo at the time, took issue with the proposed car's styling. The long and troubled gestation period for the Alfa Romeo volume sedan is about to come to an end with the debut of a car that will be offered in the U.S. alongside the 4C.
The Giulia is expected to take on the BMW 3-series, the new Jaguar XE, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-class when it goes on sale in Europe in the spring of 2016. The Alfa sedan is expected in the U.S. in early 2017.
The steep road ahead for Alfa in the U.S. Automotive News Europe | June 8, 2015 14:17 CET
A 44-year-old Alfa Romeo Montreal sports coupe that sold new for $6,000 brought $176,000 at a classic car auction in Arizona. Some older Alfas are commanding auction prices more than 10 times higher than just five years ago.
There is no doubt that Alfa Romeo fans -- the Alfisti -- are passionate. But there is enough doubt that there are enough of them to bring the brand back to life after a 20-year absence in the U.S.
Looking at Alfa Romeo’s history in the United States, you’d probably conclude the brand’s chances are slim of reaching Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ annual target of 150,000 vehicle sales in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the NAFTA region, by the end of 2018.
Alfa has made some gorgeous and technically interesting production cars in the last 50 years, but they never sold in high volume. Rarity, you see, has a lot to do with the high prices being paid for original and professionally restored classic Alfas.
I wonder if the fervor among collectors for old Alfas has Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne overestimating the demand for stylish new models that capture the brand’s DNA.
I went back into the archives and looked at Alfa’s sales history in the United States. Even if Alfa had a large base of loyal old customers -- which it doesn’t -- 150,000 units annually would be tough, especially in this competitive era. Alfa’s best sales year here came in 1986, when it sold 8,201 cars. Also, Alfa dealers usually ranked dead last in U.S. sales per outlet in the 1970s.
For most of Alfa’s history here, from the 1950s to the mid-1990s, Alfa’s normal U.S. volume was usually between 2,500 and 5,000 vehicles a year. I don’t have the stats for Canada and Mexico, but let’s be charitable and say that Alfa’s volume in both countries added 50 percent to the U.S. total. That’s still nowhere near 10,000 vehicles a year.
Alfa’s lineup back in the late ’50s through the ’90s consisted of a two-seat convertible sports car, called the Duetto, then Spider, or some variation thereof, and usually a sporty sedan or coupe or sometimes both.
But three models were the most you’d find in an Alfa store. Alfa was in the U.S. market for a long time. So, why didn’t it grow?
I tracked down Craig Morningstar, Alfa’s longtime public relations manager who worked for the company from the 1970s until the end. Alfa’s perennially low U.S. volume was not always because of lack of demand or the patchwork dealer network, Morningstar told me. Alfas sold well in Europe, and the cars that were sold there needed a lot less modifying than American market vehicles.
In other words, Alfa made more money selling its cars in Europe than it did selling them here.
“The limit to our sales always started in Italy. It was always something,” Morningstar said from his home in Kansas City, Kansas. “They couldn’t build enough cars. We sold 30,000 cars a year in Germany in the 1970s. The factory said, ‘Why fiddle with all those American emissions and safety and regulations?’ Plus, the United States was such a physically huge market that it took a lot of people to cover. We just never grew enough in this country to command the volume we should have.”
The GTV6, a handsome, V-6-powered sports coupe that debuted in 1971, came out about the same time as the wildly popular Datsun 240Z. The GTV6 was a missed opportunity, Morningstar said, to really grow the Alfa brand in the United States.
“The GTV6 had really great volume potential,” Morningstar recalled. “Germany wanted them. Italy wanted them. But Alfa could only produce so many.”
Producing Alfas in enough volume likely won’t be an issue this time around.
According to Fiat Chrysler’s five-year plan, Alfa plans to show a midsize sports sedan, expected to carry the Giulia name, on June 24. It joins the 4C sports car, which, by the way, has generated a grand total of 255 unit sales in the U.S. this year. That’s an average of about 63 sales per month.
Alfa’s product plans through 2018 show the lineup growing to include six additional vehicles, including two SUVs. Still, the road to 150,000 units annually in NAFTA is steep. Morningstar believes Alfa has the potential to sell far more than it ever did in the past, but, he says, 150,000 will be tough.
His advice for Reid Bigland, head of Alfa Romeo for North America: Study Alfa’s U.S. history, tap into the passion that car collectors have for Alfa and, most of all, nail quality. The cars have to be built right and be easy to fix quickly.
Largely forgotten these days is that Chrysler and Alfa Romeo have history.
In 1989, Chrysler and Alfa formed ARDONA -- Alfa Romeo Distributors of North America. It was a joint venture to market the Alfa 164 sedan and grow the brand.
Some Chrysler stores added Alfa Romeo, but it didn’t go well. A recession, poor quality and other issues forced Chrysler to exit the deal after just three years.
Says Morningstar: “They need to know the mistakes we made in the past.”
Alfa Romeo returned to the U.S. market last November with the 4C.
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Alfa's pitch in U.S. will be luxury, Italian style
Models will compete with, not copy, German peers, FCA's Francois says Charles Child
Automotive News Europe | April 24, 2015 06:01 CET
DETROIT -- As they prepare to reintroduce Alfa Romeo to the U.S., Fiat Chrysler marketers are exploring the notion that shoppers are tired of look-alike German luxury cars.
Olivier Francois, FCA US' chief marketing officer, says that American and European consumers have "started to get a little bit tired" of the sameness of German luxury cars and the "copying" of their attributes by Japanese and American luxury brands.
"It's a little early to think about, but we've started our marketing reflection around Alfa," said Francois in an interview with Automotive News Europe sister publication Automotive News.
He said people say about German cars " 'Yeah, sure, the best cars, nice-looking, great' -- but they're kind of tired. They want something new."
FCA executives have revealed few details about their plans for Alfa, which left the U.S. market 20 years ago. They have said the vehicles will be fully competitive with German luxury vehicles and will feature the brand's Italian styling and performance.
The Alfa Romeo 4C sports coupe went on sale in the U.S. in November. A sedan is to arrive in the first half of 2016.
The good news is that the Alfa brand still has solid awareness among U.S. consumers, Francois said.
"When we started with Fiat, 8 percent of Americans before the reintroduction knew that Fiat was a car. That was our baseline. The baseline of Alfa is much higher," at about 30 percent or 40 percent, Francois said.
The two-seat Alfa Romeo 4C sports coupe went on sale in the U.S. in November.
A second vehicle, a sedan expected to carry the Giulia nameplate, is to be revealed June 24 in Milan, Italy. It is scheduled to arrive in U.S. showrooms in the first half of 2016.
"I have the feeling that we might probably hit some nerve at some point if we deliver the right product," Francois said.
In other news, Francois said:
• Even though dealers have temporarily stopped taking orders for Hellcat versions of the Dodge Charger and Challenger, FCA is planning a TV commercial in July that will feature the high-performance cars as a halo for Dodge.
Car enthusiasts crave the Hellcat cars' 707-hp engines. And videos of the cars have gone viral, creating a social-media phenomenon. Demand for the cars, which went on sale last fall, has ignited with no formal advertising.
• He chose an original song by indie rock band X Ambassadors to appeal to millennial shoppers in the advertising campaign for the new Jeep Renegade subcompact SUV. The campaign launched April 17. Millennials are mainly in their 20s and 30s.
Millennials "don't buy into advertising," Francois said. "They are more sophisticated. If you try to fool these people, you're dead. It's over. If they feel it's not totally organic, not real, not true, you're dead."
• Celebrity endorsers quickly buy market awareness. But he added that it's a "lazy" method too, even though FCA has used them. "I'm not a big fan of endorsers." He said. "I would never do the Lincoln Matthew McConaughey commercial. I love him, by the way."
Larry P. Vellequette contributed to this report
Francois: Alfa Romeo still has solid awareness among U.S. consumers.
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